If it is true that you are what you eat, then I am a chocolate Toblerone bar, which I just scarfed down while sitting hunched at my desk in a cut-and-dried case of stress eating. I was only half aware that I was eating it and I can’t say I really enjoyed it, which is especially sad because that was my last sugary treat until after my gestational diabetes test tomorrow. This might be the first year ever that my kids actually get to keep all of their own Halloween candy.
As you can probably tell, this is going to be a “do as I say, not as I do” sort of post. Because eating an entire Toblerone bar in an attempt to ward off feelings of stress and fatigue is not only short-sighted, it actually perpetuates the problem. High sugar, high fat foods can actually make you sluggish and grumpy, and inactivity is enervating. How you treat your body affects your mind and your performance, whether you are an elite athlete or an average Josephine dropping the crumbs from two out of three meals into your keyboard. There was a period in my life when I had the time to be a gym rat and health nut. While I don’t always practice what I preach these days, I do believe that respecting the body and caring for it properly are integral to not just physical wellness, but also to overall mental and emotional wellbeing.
Your body is amazing. Maybe you don’t believe that. Maybe you are pretty irritated with your bum knee or you cringe inwardly at pictures that accentuate some perceived flaw. Maybe you suffer from a chronic illness or injury and have a hard time seeing your body as anything but a source of pain. I think to some extent we all take our bodies for granted, excepting those times when others’ suffering makes us briefly aware of how lucky we are. Your body performs many miracles every day simply by continuing to perpetuate itself.
The body’s wisdom is also often greater than that of the thinking mind. It can tell you indirectly, through a nagging sickness or recurring injuries, when you need more rest or when something – a joint or a lifestyle – is out of whack. Too often we don’t check in enough to realize how off-kilter we have become until a problem surfaces. Any time we take on too much we risk spreading our energy too thinly, which can lead to a cascade of consequences. Getting sick, feeling run down, and experiencing recurring muscular tightness or headaches are often your body’s way of trying to get your attention. Your body will also give you hints about unresolved emotions that you need to deal with. I believe that to a certain extent the state of our bodies reflects our state of minds – something to keep in mind when you feel inclined to diss it.
It seems like the times when we should be the most mindful of what our body is telling us, are also the times when we tend to tune out and escape the most. When I am stressed, I find myself noshing on nutritional voids, compulsively attending to my iProducts, and running too much even when it hurts. All of this just delays the return to equilibrium. So what does the body need? Rest, nutritious food, clean water, fresh air and sunlight, and physical activity. These are the basics – proportions TBD between you and your body. I don’t think any of us need to be ascetics in order to have healthy, happy bodies and minds. I definitely believe that there are times that my body needs a fishbowl margarita and a bag of cheetos. The problem – or rather, the solution – lies in mindfully choosing how you use and fuel your body.
Sometimes people in fairly cerebral jobs are like the opposite of the Headless Horseman. We put so much emphasis on what goes on in our minds that we neglect our bodies. If someone were to draw us in caricature, we’d have huge balloon heads and sad little withered bodies. But in our ongoing quest for happiness and success, we can’t forget that there is a fascinating and important interplay between the mind and body that can be leveraged for optimal performance.