One of the unsettling things about diets, exercise tapes, and health gurus that tell you that you can get fit and slim down in just a week or two is that they are probably lying to you.
The concept of being fit and healthy is one that is intended to be long term. The emphasis that is placed on a person’s appearance and physique can often be tied to particular events or times of year. You can see this most obviously in the attention and coverage that the media gives the concept of a ‘beach body’. This is particularly disingenuous because it implies that being healthy is something that you should do simply so that you can look attractive for a few weeks during the summer. This completely ignores the fact that if you do not look after yourself the rest of the year, your health will suffer and how good you look on the beach will be of little consequence compared to how your quality of life will be affected.
One of the reasons that these sorts of ideas and articles are written and published is that they reinforce and legitimize societal beauty standards. It is no surprise that using attractive people in advertising campaigns gets people’s attention. However, it becomes a problem when it is suggested that it is only people who look a certain way who are the ones that are beautiful or who have value. The nature of the free market is such that if you instill in a person the idea that they need to look and dress a certain way, you can monetize their desire to conform by offering the products and services that you created the need for in the first place. It is a good business plan because you create your own customers. However, capitalism is versatile and is able to contemporaneously offer the exact opposite. In practice, this manifests itself as companies like Dove and Lane Bryant using so-called ‘real women’ to promote their products. The use of language in this instance suggests that women who do not conform to the ideal of ‘real’ are somehow illegitimate. The fact remains that these competing narratives of female beauty are often vapid attempts to appeal to the moral and ethical values of a particular demographic which has been tirelessly researched and market tested. The most important issue in life is one’s health and looking after it is much simpler and less devious. Here are a few ways of doing it:
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is obviously quite important to leading a healthy, happy life. Some diets will tell you that they can help you lose a lot of weight in a short amount of time. However, they become redundant once you have to start to maintain that weight. The secret is well known: do not take on more calories than you burn off. It is not true that you cannot sometimes indulge yourself and take a cheat day where you have something calorific like pizza and ice cream. It just means that it is not a good idea to have those things all the time. Exercise is the other crucial aspect of a good lifestyle. If you take up a sport, for instance, you will be helping yourself by reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure. Doing regular exercise also helps you sleep better and reduces stress. Not only that, research has shown that doing exercise and playing sports, and being good at them, can help you develop stronger friendships. Besides, you get to learn new skills as well, and if you are really good, you could turn pro and start earning lots of money.
However, taking care of yourself is not just about eating well and being active. Lots of people struggle with things like addiction. In fact, recent statistics suggests that about 23.5 million Americans are addicted to drugs or alcohol. That is about 1 in every 10 of all Americans over the age of 12, or about the population of Texas. The reasons that a person may be addicted to these sorts of substances are varied and immensely complex. It is wildly reductionist to suggest that they are simply weak or that they just do not have the strength of will to conduct an ostensibly normal life. The reality is that a lot of people who start taking drugs do so because they suffered trauma in their lives and they sought an escape and a coping mechanism. The political climate is rather partisan on this issue, but the fact is that decriminalizing a lot of the drugs that are currently leading to a massive prison overpopulation crisis is actually quite effective. Portugal completely decriminalized drugs in 2001 and have since seen drug use below the European average as well as fewer young people taking up drug use. However, if you or someone you love is currently struggling with addiction, you may want to think about an intervention and possible rehab options. The staff are expertly trained and they make it easy to recover at a long term facility. It is not an easy option because it necessitates that the addicted person acknowledges that they have a problem. It can also be quite expensive, so you should check if your insurance covers it. However, sustained drug use is dangerous, and while it may not always seem like it, the kindest option is often to step in and try to help.
However, not every lifestyle choice is quite as dramatic. Going to the dentist, for instance, is something that a lot of people do not like doing. In fact, only 64.7% of Americans went to the dentist in 2013. It is so important not least because the state of a person’s teeth is such a status symbol in American society, but also because having poor dental hygiene can lead to some painful and unpleasant conditions. While having a drill go into your teeth may seem painful, it is not as bad as your teeth rotting and slowly starting to fall out. As for flossing, everyone may tell you to do it and you may feel guilty for failing to, but the fact is that the evidence to support it is rather inconclusive.