Someone said to me recently, when I asked her if she was interested in her health, that she was too busy to be healthy. I was shocked. However, when I thought about it later, I realised that this throwaway statement encompassed a number of false beliefs:
- It links two unrelated concepts – it doesn’t necessarily take any more time to be healthy, or less time to be unhealthy.
- It reveals a low self-worth, putting her own health after all the other things in her life.
- It shows the false belief that you can’t just be healthy, but you have to work at it, with all the negative connotations of the word “work”.
- It reveals ignorance of the fact that if you are healthy you can be even busier, without it taking a toll, and be far more able to relax or have fun when the opportunities arise.
And she is not alone in thinking like this. Being responsible for our own health is to many of us an alien concept. We were not taught about it in school; but we were brought up to put others first. Preventative health is not promoted by our medical establishment; illnesses and diseases are battled against once they have been diagnosed, often ineffectively.
Mental and physical wellness ought to be everyone’s goal, but it tends to be very low in the priority list, if it appears at all. If you ask most people what they do to cheer themselves up, it will involve unhealthy things like drinking alcohol and eating cake or chocolate rather than a brisk walk or chatting to a good friend. It’s all topsy-turvy.
We are enmeshed in a tangle of bad habits, rather like the diabetic sugar/carb/energy spike-and-dip trap, which combine to drag us into lethargy and ill-health.
It does not take more time or effort to choose a piece of fruit rather than a chocolate biscuit; it takes no extra time to prepare a low GI* meal rather than one high in fat, salt and sugar (Jamie Oliver’s recent Channel 4 TV series on 30-Minute Meals showed how this can be done).
What does need to change is our attitude to ourselves – a belief we are worth looking after will lead to healthier choices, new habits, and a longer and happier life.
*Glycaemic Index – see www.glycemicindex.com