Here’s to your imperfect health!
Greta Poretsky has written a beautiful piece about the value of imperfect health. Or perhaps, rather, the value of acknowledging, accepting, and perhaps even celebrating the imperfect health of the glorious gift that is our body.
Poretsky tells us of a client who tried to cease her habit of staying up late to work on a novel she was writing:
Sure, staying up too late all the time can mess with cortisol, but not staying up when she was dying to write was messing with her soul.
Health isn’t about being “perfect” with food or exercise or herbs. Health is about balancing those things with your desires. It’s about nourishing your spirit as well as your body.
I have been thinking lately about the idea that how we define the “health” in the HAES has a huge impact on our actual HAES practices. If we interpret it as purely physical health, and believe that that should trump other forms of health (emotional, spiritual, mental, relational, etc.) then in actuality this turns out to be unhealthy. The concept of “being in good health” is not—or at least, shouldn’t be—one more way that we beat ourselves up over being imperfect.
A sense of health that is more holistic than perfectionistic recognizes that we live in a wonderfully messy, imperfect world in which we must make decisions weighing a number of factors. Sometimes the best—most healthy—option for us is something others would “tut tut” us for, like skipping the gym or eating a doughnut or missing some sleep. Perhaps ironically, being in good holistic health actually means acknowledging that our bodies are imperfect, that we can never make them perfect or be in perfect health, and ultimately that there are no “perfect” choices.
Furthermore, “health” should not be something that only people who are physically free of sickness, disability, or pain can attain. Having diabetes or a weak knee or cancer does not mean that by definition you can’t be healthy. If the word “health” is to have any meaning to us whatsoever, it has to be inclusive of all, and more about things like balance, a sense of wholeness, finding ways to live vibrantly.
This idea of an imperfect health that accepts ourselves where we are, honors ourselves, and truly loves ourselves—mind, body, heart, and soul—is a conception of the health in HAES that I can really get behind.