Health Matters—Not Perfection

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Spring in Las Vegas

As a writer, and like many of you, I spend most of my days sitting at the computer writing something. When I’m not writing, I’m reading, which isn’t such a physical activity either. When I’m not writing or reading, I have an ongoing thing with Netflix. We’ve all heard the health experts—too much sitting is not good for our physical health, and I’m pretty sure it’s not so great for our mental health since being stuck in one place can become a strain on the brain. Whenever I’ve been working for a long time, I keep looking out the window where today the sky is crisp blue and the yellow circle flowers are blooming on the bushes.

I admit I’ve been feeling the blahs lately. I watch the health segments on talk shows and I listen to health-centered podcasts, and I know that eating healthy foods and exercising helps us to alleviate stress and feel better generally, but maybe some of you can relate to the fact that the more stressed I am the more I tend to just sit and work and not eat particularly well. Cookies, candies, and sweet drinks all look more desirable when I’m stressed or under some time crunch.

I’ve become more concerned with my health than with losing weight. As the years have passed, I’ve become less concerned about what size clothes I wear. When I was younger, I was obsessed with the number on the label. One of the nice things about getting older is that, if we’re lucky, a little more wisdom comes our way. Besides, between us, I wear mostly stretchy pants these days. And who gets to set the standard of perfection anyway? We should be striving to be healthy, not skinny. It seems as though we’ve been wired to pursue some level of perfection that simply doesn’t exist, and the pursuit of that perfection only makes up unhappy and often more unhealthy. The other day I was watching Bill Nye the Science Guy’s new show on Netflix (that Netflix again…). By the way, if you’re not familiar with Bill Nye, he’s awesome! One of Bill’s guests said that whatever size you are when you eat a mostly healthy diet and get a reasonable amount of exercise is the perfect size for you. I wanted to kiss this woman through the television screen. Yes! I wanted to shout. That’s right. That’s what we should be striving for—health, not perfection. We want to eat healthy most of the time but allow ourselves pizza or ice cream on occasion—not all day, not every day, but sometimes. I know there are health experts who claim that they never eat a bite of bread or a grain of white sugar, but I often wonder if these people are truthful—or human. I can’t relate to people who claim to be perfect, so their messages about how to be healthy are often unhelpful to me.

I had to make a deliberate decision to be healthier since it’s so easy to grab a sugary drink or snack when I’m busy. I don’t start out well in the morning, sometimes skipping breakfast (I know, I know…), which means my eating schedule is thrown off the rest of the day, which makes a bagel look very appetizing when I get hungry. There’s nothing wrong with an occasional bagel, but every day? Probably not so good. I also had to make the decision to get out of my damn office chair. I’m the kind of person where once I get my focus on, I can keep going for hours. Granted, it takes me a while to find my focus. I’m a world-class procrastinator, as most writers are, and the Internet makes it too easy to shop for cat toys and coloring books. Once I get working, though, it’s all systems go and hours could pass before I know it. I’ve heard the tip to set a timer when you’re working. Every hour the timer goes off, reminding you to get up, move around, do a yoga stretch or take a walk around the block. I’ve been doing a better job of getting up. I work for a while, get up and play with the cats. I work for a while, get up and make lunch. I work for a while, get up and pop in an exercise video or hit the treadmill. I’ve eyed those standing desks and I’m curious, but not enough to actually buy one—yet.

I’m eating and drinking better too. I love fruits and vegetables, so eating more of them isn’t hard for me. Yes, I have to cook more, but I feel better afterwards so it’s worth the time and effort. The key for me as I’ve been making these changes has been not worrying about being perfect. If I decide I want a piece of cinnamon raisin bread, I’m not going to freak out about it. I’m going to eat the bread, enjoy it, and eat healthy the rest of the day. I’m focusing more on how I feel rather than pursuing perfection. I feel better when I drink more water, eat more fruits and vegetables, avoid too much sugar, and do my yoga stretches. The better I feel the more productive I am. When I sit too much or eat or drink too much sugar I feel lethargic and even simple tasks feel like they’re too hard. And that’s not how I want to live. I want to have the energy to tackle everything I have to do in a day, and in order to find that energy I have to be healthy, not perfect.

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