Our Obsession with being FIT

The world has changed. That is nothing new, but we see a completely different change. Every locality has a gym coming up with all people—truly all people, in all sizes and shapes—taking it upon them to achieve that perfect shape that probably none has achieved. What is it with this rush to the gyms? Why has everyone suddenly become so conscious of their appearance? Simple. We live in a world of make-believe. The card-towers of our lives are shattered with a whiff of the wind. And how did we get to here? Simple again. Not only do we live in a world of make-believe, but we are also gullible enough to believe anything that we are made to!

That idiot box called TV or its recent twin, the computer, and that increasingly essential human part called the mobile phone have whipped out a solution to practically all our problems. Or have they? Are you suffering from obesity? Here is your magic pill, just pop it and your weight will pop its way out! So comforting! It is a pity no one tells us about the life-endangering side-effects of that pill. Though there are advertisements, which are mostly staged, of people, who have miraculously shed dozens of kilograms in amazingly short times, no one is telling about the numerous people, who are suffering various ailments because of the weight-reduction drugs. So, should we not be conscious of our body-weight and fitness? We should be, by all means, yes! However, the present-day problem is that we are overdoing it.

Being fit does not mean one has to obsess over the calories that one consumes through every piece of food. Being fit does not mean that one cannot eat some foods, oily, spicy, or sweet, on occasions for celebration or for having a good time.

Our image of ourselves should not be merely one of our bodies.

Being fit does not mean that one has to appoint a trainer or go to a gym. Being fit is all about understanding the bio-rhythm of the body. It is about understanding the small signs, alerts, and alarms that the body gives us when something needs attention. The regularity of food and rest times, a regular amount of exercise, and immediately heeding to body alarms are the main things that would lead to good health.

Most people who take to crash programs of weight reduction forget that it needs an equal, if not more, time to reduce weight as the time takes to put it on in the first place. No shortcuts are going to help us there. And there is no perfect body shape. It is alright to have different bodies, and it is pathological to hate one’s own body. Our bodies are the reflections of our thoughts and actions, and if we need to change our bodies, the change has to begin with our minds and actions. Mere dressing up the body or reducing flabs would be just eyewash. 

Enough fluid intakes, sufficient rest, enough leisure, and good company of loved ones can do more good to the body that a horse of doctors or diet plans ever can.

One should avoid eating for stupid excuses like bad moods. One should avoid overt fixation with specific foods. And the most important of all, one should avoid skipping meals. Skipping meals is one of the causes of weight increase, as is lack of sleep, and insufficiency of water in the body. If however, you sometimes botch it up and are unable to maintain this list of things to avoid, it is alright. The world has not ended for you, and nothing serious will happen. It is more important to be happy and calm than to be rigidly adhering to a don’ts list. We need to remember that food is not the only villain in the problem of obesity. Researchers continuously show the importance of lifestyle choices for people who are obese. Also, in programmes intending to reduce obesity, weight loss is wrongly seen as the only criteria. This needs to change. We need to include other factors like the satisfaction of the person with the programme and quality of life.

If you measure up your body every now and then if you fuss about the calories that your food contains, if you avoid many dishes even at the cost of social awkwardness, if you are obsessed with diets, then beware you have already become the latest victim of the body epidemic!

The body image of a person is something that haunts one unless one has a greater conception of one’s personality. The popular media has been feeding us with ideal and mostly impossible images of body that we try to emulate in vain. When it becomes clear that such a utopian body image is out of our grasp, we become depressed and all the effort we took to reduce weight by trying to maintain an impossible diet plan is thrown to the wind and ironically, the obsession with an ideal body image becomes the very reason for eating unhealthy food and becoming obese. It is alright to have a body that is not picture perfect. Most people don’t have picture-perfect bodies. The sooner we understand this and live with it, the better it would be good for our lives and psychological well-being.

Having a positive self-esteem is of the utmost importance if we have to not be obsessed with our body. One of the first things that this needs is that we treat body with respect no matter, how ugly it might look in the popular perception. We should never try to control our body rather, we should eat healthy food and exercise regularly because that would keep our body healthy and would also make us feel good. Our world view should not be one that judges every person or even an object based just on its form. We should not try to fit in clothes not designed for the present state of the bodies. Just like we do not wear the clothes that we wore when we were children, we should not try to wear clothes that we used when we were of a different form. We should ignore the critical comments or the critical outlook people have on particular body shapes. We should be careful not to be apologetic about our body shape, no matter what the ideal body shape is according to popular perception.

We should avoid having negative thoughts about ourselves. We should not worry about our body and appearance. We should also not worry about our achievements in life. Achieving a particular body form should never be our aim at any time of our lives. We should keep ourselves company with people who care for us and would not be worried about our body shape.

Our image of ourselves should not be merely one of our bodies. We are much more than the perishable aggregate of flesh, blood, and all the other nauseating matter that rests under the misleading veneer of our skin. To understand this and to develop self-esteem that is not shattered by the amount of wealth or physical beauty that we possess, should be the first step towards acquiring a meaningful purpose in life, which would enable us to live a happy life that is focussed on attaining higher natures of our self.

Author is Editor of Prabuddha Bharata.

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Also read

1. Lifestyle factors associated with Obesity 

2. Fasting – A perspective  

3. Addiction of being switched on 24 by 7

This article was first published in the April 2018 issue of Prabuddha Bharata, monthly journal of The Ramakrishna Order started by Swami Vivekananda in 1896. This article is courtesy and copyright Prabuddha Bharata. I have been reading the Prabuddha Bharata for years and found it enlightening. Cost is Rs 180/ for one year, Rs 475/ for three years, Rs 2100/ for twenty years. To know more http://advaitaashrama.org/pbSubscription

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