Wouldn’t it be lovely if there was just a single aspect to fitness that we could all aspire to? If hitting the gym for one hour, five days a week could take away all our health woes? After all, it does sound very intense. But it just doesn’t work that way.
Of course, if you have never worked out and you join a gym, or you start a diet (any diet), there is a huge possibility of you seeing some results rather quickly. But that is not because you have found the perfect solution for your body, it is just that you have jolted your body out of its comfort zone and the muscles are trying to adapt to that, so some changes will be visible. But the appearance of our bodies is majorly a reflection of our overall wellbeing – the toned muscles don’t show up without weight training, the tummy flab doesn’t go simply by doing stomach crunches, the excess weight doesn’t fall off simply because we brisk walk every day. There are many dimensions to a healthy body and they can be served in not just that hour in the gym. They need 24X7 attention.
A big component of fitness is how we think about our food, and how much do we think about our food. Basically, it is imperative to understand what our relationship with our food really is. Do we eat to fulfil our nutritional needs, or do we eat to satisfy our taste buds most of the times? Do we eat in a timely fashion throughout the day or do we simply get up in the morning only to eat and think about food all the time? Are we accepting of different tastes such as sour and bitter foods or are we only fixated on salty and sweet foods? Most importantly, a very profound question – do we think that we create food or do we realise that food creates us?
In all cultures around the world, cooking is a labor of love. Traditionally, people grew locally, cooked every meal fresh and ate in company. However, in most modern cultures, people are truly unaware about where their food is coming from, time doesn’t permit cooking each meal separately and eating is more of a chore that people need to get done with, often times on the run. In fact, working lunches, eating on the go and ordering in is seen as a measure of efficiency and dedication of a person. But remember, what we do not respect, rarely ends up respecting us back. So our bodies end up suffering and retaliating in response to the abuse that we subject it to, with diseases. If we don’t truly understand the purpose of eating in the first place, it is very difficult to do so mindfully. If eating is only about the immediate pleasure and obsession with palatable tastes, we will only be restricted to the attractive packaging of the food industry and the so-called solutions of the pharmaceutical industry to get by through life. Hence, it is very important to have a constructive relationship with food and only opt for food with nourishment over taste (at least 80% of the times or as much as possible).
There is an important term that I shared earlier – obsession. The easiest way to hook people on to something is to spin a story around it that makes people obsessed with it. And almost anything can become an obsession – food, caffeine, traveling, working out, working late, watching television, social media and so on. Really, anything. It is very important to stay clear of obsessions as much as possible as it is likely to lead to indulgent behaviours tilting on one extreme. Even thinking about food is an obsession that prevents people from engaging positively with food. If you are visiting a friend’s house and all that you are wondering is what she will serve you to eat, there is an obsession. If you are going to attend a work conference and more than the prospect of what you will learn, you are excited about what you will get to eat there, there is a definite obsession. If you are thinking about food, even on a full stomach, there is an obsession. Recognise it and address it, not by indulging, but by truly listening to your stomach. Even if your tongue gives a signal to the brain that mac n cheese is food and a pear is not, your stomach is truly craving for that nourishing fruit instead of the yellow coloured goo. Trust me.
There is a beautiful post on www.positivehealthwellness.com about Emotional Eating. A must read for those who want to understand, acknowledge and control their sense of hunger and satiety.
The second important dimension to fitness is what you do with your bodies outside of the gym (whether you go to one or not). This means, are you challenging your body for things it should obviously do – like taking the stairs, walking to do grocery, cleaning up after yourselves? Our bodies are not meant to see comforts 24X7. We are built to toil, to struggle and to achieve. Our bodies can truly see their full potential when we push ourselves to the limits and beyond. If you hear yourself saying “I can’t do it” often, find company or get someone to stand next to you while you try to do it. Seek professional help, but definitely try. There is no limit to our body’s ability to do the unthinkable.
Go for it.