We all get down on our bodies every once in a while. Generally, it is an aesthetic complaint that we have, about our height, weight, or skin. It is easy to think to yourself, "Why even bother eating healthy and exercising when I still don't like the way I look or feel about myself?"
Looking in the mirror is the measurement of ourselves reflected against what we see on television, the internet, magazines, or out on the street.
Internal feelings of physical energy and mental strength make up the measurement of ourselves in a way that really, truly matters.
I could tell you that radiant sunshine beams from your face when you feel strong and happy and that is why it is important to keep on eating well and exercising. That wouldn't necessarily be untrue, but it wouldn't be the vital reason we all need to honor our bodies.
I could tell you you need to honor and respect your body because it is the only one you get (true), the Universe/your Creator gave it to you and you only (also true), or even that you will physically feel better from honoring and respecting your body (because you will).
Here it is:
The vital reason we all need to honor and respect our bodies is that we do not know when life is going to throw us a physical curveball that knocks the wind straight out of us. In cases where those curveballs catch us off-guard, we lessen the likelihood that we can successfully catch the ball and throw it back with a vengeance. This metaphor about the curveball and catching and throwing just boils down to the idea that the stronger we make ourselves, the better chance we have of surviving (and bouncing back from) a catastrophic health event that we hope will never happen.
Despite the idea of honoring my body being a constant thought and mantra for me on a variety of regular occasions (weight fluctuation and acne flair-ups, for example), I haven't written and shared about this extremely important idea of honoring your body in the hopes that your own strength and health, which you have worked tirelessly for, could end up being the difference between life and death, or even the determining factor in a quality of life issue.
This topic is something I have thought about often since my own diagnosis of type 1 diabetes in 2014. If you've read a little about my diagnosis experience, then you know my diagnosis was made in the midst of an extremely serious case of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). At the same time that T1D turned my newly established adult life upside down, I also had to recover from a frightening complication that weakened my body and mind, although not my resolve.
I was incredibly angry and indignant when I woke up in the ICU and I began to understand what was going on. I thought to myself, "What the heck was the point of eating well and exercising regularly and going to the doctor on-time and all of the other things I did to stay healthy? I got sick anyway and this kind of illness will never go away."
Of course, my experience is anecdotal. I was not provided statistics or research to back this up by the medical professionals who told me so, but I had multiple healthcare providers in varied settings (ICU, endo, general physician, etc.) insist that it was because of the hard work and dedication I had put into keeping myself healthy that I survived with the potential to thrive again. By giving thought to my food choices, making time for physical activity, and not indulging in risky behaviors, I (unknowingly) made it possible for me endure the bodily trauma of walking around for months with undiagnosed T1D, culminating in an epic battle for my life against DKA on an ER gurney. Not only did I survive, but I miraculously walked (rolled? envision that hospital discharge wheelchair) away from the hospital at the end of my stay with no discernible serious, permanent damage.
It wasn't until I saw some of my deeply-held thoughts and feelings on this topic spelled out by another that it reminded me to share.
Woman's Day magazine online recently published a story entitled "I Had a Heart Attack on the Way to My Wedding and Still Got Married". If you'd like to read the article in it's entirety, click the link. The short version that you need to know for the purpose of understanding this blog post is that a young, healthy 37 year old woman experienced a heart attack as she and her family journeyed to Mexico for her destination wedding. She said the following about her cardiac health experience, and it resonated with me deeply; deeply enough that it brought me here to share this all with you:
In the beginning, I was angry about my situation. The first day I walked into cardiac rehab, everyone was over 60. I was in tears thinking "How did I end up here?" I realized that all the good choices I made ahead of time were why I was able to recover so quickly.
And yet again; a recent shark attack survivor and her doctors credit her survival and likelihood of a full recovery to her "exceptional physical fitness". A mother, personal trainer, fitness instructor, triathlete, and Ironman competitor, she is obviously tough, and a born fighter. All of those things are wonderful to be, of course (you go, girl!), but it does not take training for an Ironman to develop a routine that works for you to build physical and mental strength.
Start eating for fuel.
Find a class you like.
Look in the mirror, even on the days where you do not like what you see, and
thank your body
for doing what it does to keep you alive and feeling good, day in and day out.
I hope that you never, ever encounter a life-threatening situation that requires a true test of your physical or mental strength, but if it does, I hope that you are prepared and your body fights for you, because you fought for, loved, honored, and respected it first. Like Mom always said, it really is what's on the inside that counts.