Reflection: Why Do We Make The Choices We Do About Our Health?

**Disclaimer** This blog reflects trends I have personally observed and talked about with my peers, and does not necessarily reflect all women or people in general.  

This year, it seems like all of my friends are eating healthier and exercising — myself included.

One month in, and everyone is still holding strong to this new lifestyle.  Where we used to huddle over pizza boxes and talk about the desperate need to binge drink, we’re now huddled over kale chips and baked sweet potato fries, commenting on how much better our bodies feel.

So why did this take so long? Why — for the love of God — were we all so OK with funneling garbage into our systems, being sedentary all day and drinking until our brains turned off?

person GIF

It’s especially interesting to consider the new movement: self-care.  If you aren’t on Twitter and haven’t heard of it, it’s a modern-take on the idea of holistic health.  Doing things that are good for your mentality and spirit is equally as important as eating your veggies and hitting the gym.  It sounds great, but everyone seems to hide behind this concept as an excuse for the same bad habits: an entire pizza to yourself, a joint here and there, binging Netflix, getting fries with the shake, etc.

It’s not all that different from the prior movement, which was the “treat yo’self” movement, brought to you by Donna and Tom from the TV show Parks and Rec. This was more obviously lavish and gluttonous and promoted reckless spending and giving in to  your vices, be they alcohol, food, gambling, what have you.

parks and recreation treat yo self GIF

What’s ironic is that these movements are contrived means of making ourselves feel better, when the hard reality is the only way to feel better is to actually be better– ditch the fries, get out of bed, do your homework and use protection.  Regardless, millennials have been out here for years putting our bodies through the ringer, and at the end of it all, we’re publishing Snapchats and Instagram posts with captions that say, “treat yo’self!” Can you imagine how stupid we must look?

The bigger issue is that the media has never cared much about our actual health.  Articles about what to eat to prevent heart disease (the number one killer of women, mind you) never go viral, but we’d eat rubber if Cosmo told us it would make our skin glow.   We’ve been fed a narrative that we should be good to ourselves because it will mold us toward a magazine ideal, but now that the standard of beauty has been expanded, have we scaled down our standard of taking care of ourselves?

Image result for cosmo cover

The dress size and glowy skin is an obvious bonus of living a healthy lifestyle, but if that’s all we cared about, where does it leave us now that we’ve realized that those things don’t actually matter? Is that why all of a sudden we’re fixated on the ideas of “self care” and treating ourselves?

I’m certainly guilty of telling myself that because I feel beautiful, I don’t have to worry about my weight.  While it is true that a number on a scale isn’t a measure of beauty or worth, that does not mean that I should forsake 64 oz of water a day for three margaritas, nor should I decide that I deserve copious amounts of junk food because I’ve had a stressful week — both of which are actual things I’ve done more than once.

The bottom line is: our relationship with our bodies has long been toxic.  A reckoning is overdue, and it starts with changing the narrative that being healthy is a means of getting a swimsuit-ready body.

Our bodies and ourselves deserve more than being reduced to magazine cover comparisons and expensive beachwear.  Our ideas of health and self care are heavily influenced by the media, and if we don’t start separating what our bodies actually need from what magazines need us to believe, we are going to be facing a very long, uphill battle.

 

Cover Image Source

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