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Why be healthy? (Updated)

March 15, 2011 by Laura

Ok, I promise after this post, I’ll move on to recipes, but I had to get this down on… LCD?

In my first post, I addressed the question, “What am I doing?”  But I didn’t say why. I mentioned that I want to look good in my brother’s wedding, and that is motivating, but in the past I have had plenty of other equally compelling reasons to lose weight, and none of them ever resulted in permanent results. What’s different this time?

For most of my life I have struggled with body image or weight or both. I have had periods of time being in great shape, but always feeling as though I could stand to lose a little more, or else feeling as though every morsel was potentially ruinous. I’ve lost weight by means that were far from healthy. As a teenager I thought, “I’d rather be dead than fat.” Cruel, no? I wish every minute that every teenage girl — and grown woman for that matter — spent worrying about what her body looked like could be given back to her for more useful pursuits. It’s a tragic waste of time and brain power.

But we don’t get that time back. Nor does all the worrying, complaining and bargaining make us thinner or healthier. At a certain point, wanting to be thin is not a good enough reason. A friend of mine likes to say, “Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.” I agree that being thin, and fitting into those jeans with the t-shirt tucked in, is enormously satisfying to those of us for whom it is elusive. But it can’t be enough. We get thin, we get un-thin again. Perhaps because in the end, vanity alone is not sustaining or sustainable.

Dale amended the phrase to “Nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels.” I think a lot of us have forgotten what it means to feel truly healthy. I know I have. I usually think of myself as being in “very good” health. And yet, I have come to accept things like loss of strength and flexibility as par for the course. But lately, looking at my patients who are unbelievably sick at 60 or 50 years old, or a pack of thirteen year olds who are so big that any one of them would have been mercilessly teased for being “the fat kid” when I was in school (not that I think that’s okay), I see my own state of well being differently. Pursuing health and promoting my ability to enjoy living in my body is sustainable and sustaining. Nourishing, even, where trying to be being skinny is emotionally and physically draining.

I owe much of this shift in attitude to my sister-in-law, Diane. Diane died in January at age 51 from breast cancer. We will probably never know why Diane had to get breast cancer. She was thin, athletic, and even funnier than me. Diane loved her life and hated being sick. She loved being in her body. She hiked, biked, walked, swam. In 2009, at 48 years old and two years after a mastectomy, she still rocked a bikini. When I visited with her in January, shortly before she died, she was very thin, and I was fat. It struck me that my body image problems were pretty meaningless. She had spent months trying to gain weight, trying to keep up her energy to do the things she loved, like going on walks. I had spent months complaining about not being able to lose the baby weight, all the while spending much of my time on my butt.

Thus I continue on the path to being “excruciatingly healthy,” rather than just “thin.”


  1. Sam says:

    Girl, you are funny. Way funnier than I get to see at work!!! LOVE your blog! You’re not swaying me to be a nutri…. blah blah blah but I still LOVE reading your stuff!!

  2. slow engine says:

    It’s like you are Oprah. Turning the past, present, and future body into a symbol, doling out some laughs, and human interest along the way. Not a bad gig.
    I remember one summer, almost 20 yrs. ago, you shed more than a few pounds, and dared ill-health at the same time. Now we are both 40-something and can confidently say, “won’t do that again.” I mention it because the healthy path to a leaner, more able body is illuminated by that 20-something power. It makes the current sensible, nutritional approach even smarter.

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