(Warning: I’m about to vent a frustration)
I often get asked the question “but what about health?” in response to about a million things…
“It’s OKAY that you ate a bunch of food last night…”
“Emotional eating is a value neutral activity…”
“Love yourself exactly the way you are…”
“BUT WHAT ABOUT HEALTH!?”
…as if “poor health” were a rational excuse for self-hatred, shame and contempt in society.
Now, I could wax poetic about all the reasons why shame and guilt will never solve, but only contribute to, the “problem” of eating cupcakes in the middle of the night,
or how, in general, these emotions only deplete our health rather than bolster it,
but I fear I would be missing a much greater and more important point:
“Health” is not a moral issue.
And personal health choices are not reason for judgement or self-shaming in the first place.
The moralistic character of “health” in America (and increasingly around the world) is right up there with “religion” of the Roman Empire — we seem to believe that we’re allowed to dictate the “rights” and “wrongs” of other people, and allow ourselves to be policed by others, on the basis of “health,” a fuzzy and often debated term to begin with.
While pursuing “health” may be an important value to you as an individual, be careful where you’re using health as a rationalization to punish yourself and others.
While good health (however that may be defined) is something we have the opportunity to pursue whenever we want — it’s not an obligation or something we should ever feel shamed into by cultural expectation.
A person’s “health” does not equal their value as a human being, nor should it challenge their right to exercise free will.
I make choices that support my body’s physical needs because I want to…not because it’s a civic duty or moral obligation of any kind.
For that matter, I also get to choose my own definition of “health,” which may very well include mental, spiritual or other non-physical forms of well-being.
More to the point, If I don’t want to make a “healthful” choice in a given moment, that’s my choice to make.
My body, my rules.
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