nine months to get it right!
A recent documentary on BBC 2 called Horizon: The Nine Months That Made You highlighted some fascinating research on how some chronic diseases that strongly influence lifespan in humans, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, can be determined by birth weight. This research shows that “early development in the womb establishes our constitution for the rest of our lives, including our ability to cope with negative situations and illnesses” (www.thebarkertheory.org)
In other words that mars bar you ate today or the miso soup you had for breakfast (how sad are you!) have less impact on your long term health than you may have thought. So maybe we should forget about the gym and the treadmill, throw out the skipping rope and that feckin giant exercise ball, burn the trampoline and shred the diet plans, relax and have another full fat latte with a piece of pecan pie (nice!).
I am not saying give up and let your self develop into a human walrus, what I think we can take from this research is the fact that to obsess about physical well being, (most of us do obsess about this stuff in some way, often in subtle ways – it couldn’t just be me!) body image and how others perceive our physicality is not only stressful, but detrimental to our long term mental health, which in turn only exacerbates our impending health issues. All good news so far!
We may have known smokers who lived a relatively healthy life well into their 70s and 80s, and others who died of a stroke or heart attack in their mid-fifties and sixties in spite of living a seemingly healthy and disciplined life, regularly exercising and watching what they ate. I am no scientist (well actually I am but it is agricultural science, and I don’t think the eating habits of cows and pigs are of much help here!) but even I know that our bodies are intuitively aware of what is good to eat. When we listen to our bodies closely we are more successful at living healthy and fit lives.
There are massive industries built on manipulating and managing our insecurities about our physicality. Pushing creams and pills that promise to transform our bodies. Much of what they say and sell is of limited value if any. The fact is we are all going to die and we have little, if any, control on how and when that will happen. Our genetic makeup and the quality of our life in the womb largely determine the quality and length of our post-birth life. This is all good news by the way!
You may be thinking “anything I do is pointless, my health is pre-determined before I can do anything about it so why bother jogging or eating tonnes of broccoli?!”…..and you are right. You should only go jogging if you enjoy it, swim if you love it, eat broccoli if you like the stuff, after-all life is not an endurance test, it is not about starving yourself or driving yourself on a treadmill to feel and look good at some distant point in the future (which never actually arrives anyway). This research is telling us to focus on what we can influence and embrace our lives with real passion and appreciation. Realise how vulnerable and precious you really are, how amazing this life is, and that you manage to get born and grow at all!
Spot the magic in you and the wonder of your body that it can take so much hardship on a daily basis and still serve you beautifully. Knowing that you are not your body, that it is a vessel through which to experience life, allows you to detach from it and learn to accept the body as a gift, a tool, a flawed and precious vase that holds your essence, your soul, as you experience life. We need the body to live and to experience life.
If we can have a relationship with the body that not only honours it, but celebrates it, appreciates it and genuinely accepts it for what it was intended then our fears, insecurities and obsessions around looking and feeling good will lessen, enabling us to be very present in the body and therefore, in life………..so that when we inevitably die, we can do so with a smile on our face, a cigarette in one hand (menthol of course!) and a half eaten mars bar in the other.