Tuesday, January 6, 2009

"Is Being Healthy a Vain Pursuit?"

Today, I came across a blog post called, "Is Being Healthy a Vain Pursuit?", from the website Modern Forager . This topic interests me because of some experiences I've been going through in my own life, and I found the post to be pretty on target, so I decided to write my own post today about this.

To provide a little context, (summing up and paraphrasing) a reader of Modern Forager writes in who has been asked by someone, "What's the point of pursuing healthy nutrition, exercise, etc.? Life is short, and it seems like a pain in the butt." Which causes said reader to wonder if his own attention to such matters is nothing but vanity.

Although, said reader does bring up the following, "I could tell him about health, wakefulness, longevity, feeling good looking good....", at least some of which are not all about vanity (especially wakefulness).

Said reader also goes on to say, "...I am not knocking health and fitness in any way. I am simply questioning the overall philosophy."

To which I say, good for him! I think it's wonderful to question, especially if what we are questioning is one of our own biases and/or assumptions.

Scott Kustes, the author of this post, replies (in part): "Can one pursue health and fitness in a way that is vain? AB-SO-LUTE-LY! It does no one any good for those of us that are in shape to look down our noses at the unwashed masses. Just because you have a six-pack doesn’t make you a better person...(emphasis mine).

I think this is the problem that a lot of people who eschew physical fitness have with "fitness fanatics". I know that while I lived exclusively in my head (which was for most of my adult life) and eschewed physical activity (which was for most of my adult life and a large chunk of my childhood), I felt this way about people into fitness/nutrition.

Scott Kustes also says, "Just because you don’t eat French fries doesn’t mean you should wave your salad in someone’s face or make comments about how you don’t understand how they can eat such things. The goal should be to help those that want help and leave the others alone. Don’t interject your opinions when they aren’t asked for, lest you want to be dubbed a zealot and elitist.(Emphasis mine.)

Another excellent point, and one that applies not just to fitness, but to everything. Just as there are "fitness zealots", there are so many other kinds of zealot. I myself have been known to be somewhat of a "spiritual zealot" and also an "intellectual zealot" during certain periods of my misguided youth (or maybe last week).

And finally, Scott goes on to say, "So is it wrong to seek health and fitness, to seek looking good? Not necessarily. You can be an arsehole about it to everyone you meet and you’ll come across as vain. Or you can live your life and let others live theirs, helping those that seek your help and leaving the rest alone."(Emphasis mine.)

Again, wise advise for all our endeavors, not just fitness.

So, why am I going on and on about this on a blog that I claim is about me finding my own truth?

The biggest reason is that for me, becoming grounded in my own physical body was the latest missing piece of my own spiritual puzzle. For a long time, I looked down my nose on people who were "preoccupied" with fitness, judging them to be "shallow". And, some fitness buffs probably are.

But, when I started getting out there on the trail, walking, then jogging, then even running, I discovered that it didn't just change my physical fitness, it changed my life.

At first, I was tempted to attribute these life changes to being out in nature. And I do think that has more than a little to do with it (much better than working out in a gym, me thinks).

But, upon further reflection, I realized that I am a whole human being, not a collection of separate parts.

So, even if the motivation for me becoming more fit was initially mostly about vanity (I admit it!), it yielded me so much more.

It helped me become more independent, more self-reliant and more even-tempered. More energetic, and at the same time, more focused and calm. All of which helps me in all my pursuits, from the pragmatic to the "spiritual" (although I'm not sure the 2 are as separate as I've usually thought they were). And that is hardly the fruit of a "vain pursuit".

What do you think? Is pursuing fitness a vain pursuit? Or, at what point does it become a vain pursuit, or obsession?

1 comment:

  1. I have a very good friend who is in his eighties and quite fit! He was telling me once about how he has worked out his whole life, and when he was younger and it was not quite the fashion yet, hie contemporaries would say he was too vain. Now they are all dead!