As a mom, I’ve been around some Disney Channel in my time. One of their better movies is “Halloweentown”, especially Debbie Reynolds’ Aggie Cromwell character. She’s right you know – “Being normal is vastly overrated.”
Think about all of your favorite characters from literature…or actual history. They tend to be a little out-of-the-ordinary, quirky, even overtly flawed. A little imperfection can be endearing.
One not-so endearing imperfection is obsessiveness. If it gets too extreme, then it becomes a problem, not a quirk.
So why, then, do we try to force healthy lifestyles to be obsessively perfect? We talk endlessly about lab tests, numbers of servings, fat grams, weights and BMIs. That kind of thinking makes the whole process of living healthy so daunting that it becomes overwhelming and all too easy to abandon.
On the other hand, we can’t get rid of measurements entirely…or else we don’t know when a problem is cropping up. A benchmark here and there keeps us headed in the right direction. You need a ping from the gps every now an then to keep from getting lost. We need balance. Being “perfect” to one extreme or another isn’t really perfect at all.
This is where ideas like “realistic” and “majority” come in handy. Being healthy isn’t a number. It isn’t even a goal (which implies an end-point). Health and wellness is a never-ending way of doing things for the rest of your natural life. That’s why the most successful health goals are realistic, sustainable and modifiable. If you find exercise that you enjoy, then you are more likely to do it often and stay active – even if that thing you enjoy doesn’t match the “normal” idea of exercise. Half a loaf is better than none and any exercise is better than none at all. A realistic goal that you consistently meet can later be modified to reflect your growing health…and inch you closer to what seemed too unrealistic and too “perfect” in the first place.
The same is true of dieting. People who already have a health issue have to be more precise and more sustained in their efforts. Otherwise, though, a small dessert in the context of eating well the rest of the day is usually no problem. Personally, I like the new “plate” concept coming out of Health and Human Services the past few years. It isn’t a matter of thus-and-so servings or calories…just make the majority of any given meal veggies and it will be copacetic in the end. Eat low on the glycemic index 95% of the time, and you’ll survive the other 5%. Eat right the rest of the year, and you can really, really enjoy that piece of birthday cake.
DO-able is better than perfect, as long as you actually do it. It’s better to be “good enough” all of the time than to be “perfect” some of the time.
This is where I find the analogy with vampires useful:
Vampires have to “feed” with care in order to avoid being discovered and destroyed. Whatever their blood “type” (animal or otherwise), they have to be careful when, where and how often they indulge. So do we. We can have our treats…as long as we keep them in the minority, in carefully chosen times and amounts. Like a vampire, you are strong enough, smart enough, clever enough to keep things under control. If you eat and exercise well MOST of the time, then, like a vampire, you will be stronger than you are now; Lighter, faster, and longer-lived.
So, no, this doesn’t give you permission to do what you want willy – nilly. That’s like a newborn vampire on a rampage that that gets them culled by the Volturi. But yes, thoughtful, careful, indulgences can be OK. Nobody’s perfect forever…but everyone can do their best the majority of the time.
Be strong, be healthy, be real – and enjoy.