Trim Down and Tone Up: Spiritual Aspects

This is the last post in our series “Trim Down and Tone Up”.  We’ve covered the emotional, environmental, nutritional, and physical aspects, now we’re going to talk about the spiritual side of things.

Everybody has a spiritual outlook, even if you don’t consider yourself religious.  Whether you’re an atheist who doesn’t believe in God, a devout christian, or someone who believes in a higher power unspecific to any religion, we all have spiritual beliefs.  When it comes to health and wellness, this concerns things like trust, the role of pleasure in your life, and having a sense of purpose.

Pleasure

Everybody needs pleasure in their lives, but people differ on just how much.  Seeking pleasure through food can really hijack you on your road to wellness if you can’t control the amount of sweets you consume.  On the other hand, avoiding all pleasure in food leads to disordered eating habits and can cause unnecessary stress in your life.  So what role does pleasure play?  I think we should fall somewhere in the middle between the hedonists and the strict puritans.  Food was meant to nourish us and to be enjoyed.  If you decide to cut something like sugar out of your diet, do it for a limited time.  Don’t deprive yourself of everything sweet and expect to stick to it for a lifetime.  On the same hand, don’t think that just because someone puts something in front of you that its ok to eat it.  Learn self control, and you’ll get a lot further.

Trust

You may be wondering what in the world trust has to do with body composition.  The answer lies in your body’s own chemistry.  If you’re a distrustful person, you’ll have higher amounts of cortisol.  Cortisol will influence you to eat more to store away fuel for the fight or flight response, and it’ll lead to more weight gain over time.  You’re also likely to have lower serotonin levels, so you’ll find it harder to resist those sugary treats and feel good foods that distract you from your mood.

Purpose

Do you have a purpose for your life, a list of goals you want to acheive?  If you’ve got kids to take care of, a spouse you love, and a mission to fulfill, you’re more likely to look after your health.  I’ve talked to lots of patients who say their motivation for getting healthier is because they want to walk their daughter down the aisle or see their son graduate college.  Conversely, the patients I’ve cared for who are isolated and have no purpose to their lives are more likely to engage in self destructive behavior, thinking that no one else will be hurt by their actions.

So what do you do if you realize that you’ve misunderstood the role of pleasure, you’re distrustful, or lack a purpose for your life?  Start making small changes.  Say no to the next unhealthy food that’s put in front of you, even if you’d ordinarily say yes.  Or, conversely, eat something sweet that you’d normally deny yourself and enjoy it for what it is.  Break the cycle of denial, frustration, and guilt.  If you realize that you’re too distrustful in your life, examine why.  Have you surrounded yourself with people that love and care for you?  Then step back and allow them to help you, to take some of your burdens, and trust that they’ll look out for you.  And if you find you’re lacking a purpose, there’s lots of opportunities to serve others and make a difference in people’s lives.  Volunteer at a soup kitchen, sponsor a child in a foreign country, spend more time with your family, whatever it is, you have something to contribute, and you’ll gain more in return.

That wraps up the five elements for Trim Down and Tone Up.  Tomorrow we’ll finish off the series with some final thoughts, so check back!

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