May 2, 2012

Beware of the Health Nut

OH Pleeeeaaaaaassseee!
They walk among us, chewing on their carrot sticks and wearing their yoga pants. They live in Nikes and look for any opportunity to exercise. They spend hours regulating their behaviour...all in the name of cutting edge health and fitness.  They are the health nuts, and they usually travel in groups.  They work out with the same amount of excitement others have for...well...something else. They preach the gospel of veggies, they wear the cutting edge techno shirts, and they don't understand how you could eat that ( I'm officially poking fun..what of's my blog).

One of the dangers of sharing space with a health nut is the risk of being judged harshly for what you chose to do. You may be chastised for eating meat, you may be judged for your need to go home and watch American Idol, or you may get the eye roll-head shake combination if you don't stick with your exercise program. I know many of these health nut-types and they tend to lean towards the grumpy and unsatisfied rather than the happily fulfilled. They chase the illusive carrot of health and fitness until the point of illness. Needless to say, it doesn't end well.  Anything pursued to such extremes rarely ends in health.

I always have to chuckle (albeit to myself) when those that have recently quit smoking or lost a few pounds are now the judge of others. Suddenly they are the experts in nutrition or what exercise is best and don't mind telling you all about it. They will also be the first to say it's all about self responsibility; failing to understand the many psycho-social-environmental influences behind many health behaviours. They serve as my biggest barrier and challenge when helping others to change (especially those related to a health nut). They are the loudest in the room and will always drown out my comments on the importance of balance, critical thinking, and individual differences (maybe 'cause my message isn't as exciting and sexy as theirs). While there may be a revelation to share in how the health nut made their changes, there's a huge gap in understanding why others are unable to do the same. Huge! THIS is why they pay me the big bucks ....he he. You would think after 9 years of study, I would know something...right (God, I hope so)?

It's true that I have cut refined carbs out of my diet. It's true that I have eliminated processed foods. I eat veggies for breakfast now and try and stick to a whole foods diet (with the odd birthday cake or glass of vino thrown in on occasion). I have had great success with it and have even lost a few (30 pounds over the last few years...but who's paying attention?), but you will never find me preaching my way of eating or the evils of wheat, fat, salt, or sugar (although I do preach the evils of the energy living creature should ingest something that toxic). If someone wants to change their eating habits or lose weight, I may make a few suggestions, but change certainly doesn't come from orders or black and white thinking. Change is a very individual process. Successful change takes into account all the variables in one's life; tweaking a bit here and altering a bit there. Blanket health promotion messages do not work and neither does a one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss and fitness.

Loving who you are now just may be the best for
your health. It's tough, but it is doable!

So if you know a health nut or one is picking on you...simply ask them this (once they stop talking about how great vegetables are and how they couldn't live without exercise). "Are you an assertive communicator?" "Do you manage your stress well?" or "On a scale of 1 - 10 how would you rate your average level of happiness?"  Dollars to maple icing covered donuts (mmmmm....donuts) they have yet to consider their emotional health - which is just as important as their physical. Just as important.

Don't get me wrong, I am not writing this to simply rant about those frustrating born-again health nuts (although I can understand how it looks like that).  I am writing this because I see way too many innocent people drowning in their health-conscious wake. I see people feeling bad about themselves because they aren't doing what the health nuts are doing...and that makes me sad (not to mention a little bit angry). 

You want to make a healthy change? Do not berate yourself about what you aren't doing. Celebrate what you are doing now; getting your sleep, taking a break, laughing with a friend, walking your dog, enjoying a piece of chocolate cake, or skipping spin class for a chance and jumping your lova's bones (there's nothin' wrong with that and is probably equal to what you are going to get in spin...minus the happy ending...unless you have a special bike seat..he he).

Good health does not just include exercise and tell those health nuts to stick that in their Romaine lettuce wrap and eat it (albeit consciously).


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