“To neglect to look after one’s health is unreasonable; to look after it too much is much worse.”
This sentence of Chauvot de Beauchêne (Maximes, réflexions et pensées diverses – 1819) dates back almost two centuries. If the first part of this sentence is obvious, the second part is much less so.
Compared to modern excesses, it is hard to imagine what it meant to neglect one’s health two centuries ago. We live in a time of extremes, with junk food and, more broadly, neglected health on the one hand, and a compulsive obsession with healthy living on the other.
Taking care of our health is a very good thing. But the best is the enemy of the good. By wanting to do too much well, we risk doing badly, we risk harming and forgetting ourselves.
For example, orthorexia is an eating disorder that consists of an obsession with healthy eating. It is an obsession with controlling everything in order to have an ideal, toxin-free diet, to achieve a form of purity through food. Orthorexia is the extreme form of food obsession based on the notion of healthy and unhealthy foods. The good and the bad allowing to purify the body and not to clog it up.
Taking care of one’s health is becoming a norm, but an obsessive norm. Just like “walk or die”, it is possible to summarise the fashion of these new behaviours in a few words: Be good to yourself and shut up! Eat gluten-free, dairy-free, drink vegetable juices, do 30 minutes of physical activity a day, take at least 10,000 steps a day, get up at 5 a.m., have a glass of lemon juice and go on a trampoline… With all this, we are guaranteed health, energy and personal fulfilment. It’s up to you!
But does it really work? Is it safe? Like any method approached without discernment, personalization or personal development, the results are not always there or are only partial.
Living healthily can lead to de-socialisation, to blindness towards dangerous behaviours and to a great deal of stress (conflicts with friends and family, a feeling of excessive deprivation, practices that contradict oneself and one’s values, etc.). The more these parameters increase, the more destructive the envisaged healthy lifestyle becomes, even if it looks very good on paper. Thus, taking too much care of one’s health becomes even more unreasonable than not taking care of it.
Take care of yourself, yes, but not at any cost. Don’t become a dictator with yourself and risk harming yourself. Be fulfilled! Feel good about what you do! And reconnect with yourself!