Everything wrong about seeking health advice

By making it a 'goal', an 'investment', we’re corporatising it, much like healthcare itself has become.

 |  4-minute read |   30-06-2016
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In all my years as a health journalist, I have learnt three key things:

1. Eat healthy

2. Exercise

3. Chill

Every bit of advice you’ll ever get, on what has now evolved into a whole new vertical within healthcare — preventive health — can be slotted into these three.

Also read: Why you have no right to be ashamed of your body

Nothing to scoff at, since businesses have been built upon them, all geared to these "goals": Health screening is the thing to do with the family over a weekend; fitness bands have become as expensive and add about as much value to life as fashion accessories do; sleep clinics are a thing; the marathon is another ladder one needs to climb; and meditation is the new fix for, well, everything from piles to pimples.

"Simplify, uncomplicate", beautiful women with flawless skin, leaning out of glossy health magazines (with perfect clavicles) will tell you. And yet, it seems like the more we talk about it, the less we live this sort of life.

It’s like my diet. Each time I declare to the world that I am on one, I seem to put on some weight.

weightbd_063016025209.jpg The most weight I have ever lost was when I was not trying to lose weight.

It’s possibly because by the time I am done balancing my nutrients and eating healthy carbs and fats, I am so tired, that I grab the nearest packet of Haldiram’s bhujia and binge eat, following it up with beer, all within my daily caloric intake of course.

You must remember I work in healthcare. But bhujia is junk food and packaged food, both at once; and beer is sugar. Sacrilege! I am left with a sense of shame, and a #MondayMotivation note on Twitter that says: "You are going to want to give up; Don’t." Murder does not make me feel this sort of guilt.

Is this why we are so "diseased" then, this lack of self-control? To blame it all on just that though, seems a bit much, considering we have never been less healthy, more obese, and this stressed ever before.

What is it about human beings and paradoxes? Or is it that sugar, trans fats and samosas really are addictive, tricking the brain into a cocaine-addiction-type reaction, as scientists tell us?

Perhaps. Or is it simply that we love a fight, even if it’s against our own bodies?

I’d say it’s a bit of everything. It’s also the same reason we watch a horror movie to get a fright, or a reality show to have a cry — because if you really look at it, life is a bit of a bore, and so rather than simplify, we find complications exciting.

This is the average life: wake up, eat breakfast, go to work, drive home, watch TV, sleep.

Also read: Why all that exercising is not helping in weight loss

Now imagine that punctuated with: wake up to meditation, eat a breakfast of steel-cut oats and blueberries rich in antioxidants, go to work wearing an organic cotton shirt, cycle home, avoid blue light at night, lull yourself to sleep with a whole sleep hygiene regime.

Insert sunscreen, peptides and night cream where you can. Now doesn’t that seem like a better life?

So yes, we like to complicate life. But more than anything else, I’d say this ill-health epidemic is because we treat health like it’s an end unto itself, as a goal, something to achieve, like the bigger office cubicle one must strive for.

And all you have to do is give up smoking, eat protein (1 gram per kg of ideal body weight), play your resistance bands, and eat no more than 1,200 calories, and you will get this "health pot" at the end of the rainbow.

The unspoken truth for most women is also this: health = slim = sexy = hello fabulous cleavage/lean legs/rounded tush (no bulges). The more we strive to live healthier lives, the less likely we are to. Health is not an end in itself. It is something that happens when you’re happy — a process.

The most weight I have ever lost was when I was not trying to lose weight; I was having fun practising for a race (where I wasn’t aiming for first place, or any place, for that matter).

The reason I was having a good time was because I was doing this with other people, and while it was partially planned, it was far from perfect. The faults and foibles made us laugh, brought us together in a sort of unspoken companionship.

Isn’t that what life is supposed to be about after all? Not a plot to "get healthy in three easy steps (or 12 expensive ones)", but really, an evolution of the self, that leads us to smile more.

And damn those laugh lines!

Writer

Sunalini Mathew Sunalini Mathew @sunalinimathew

Director, Health Initiatives, Blue Pen Media.

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