What's your body budget?
Submitted by Kyra
It's a long accepted school of thought that our bodies are our vehicles to get us through this life. Our, for lack of a better word, cars. But did you ever stop for a moment and think about how many cars there are out there?
If you were in the market for an actual car, you have a lot of them to choose from. On the high end, you have something like a Bugatti. (I googled most expensive car, you have got to see this thing.) That sucker can rock the roadway, and your ego! I wonder if it levitates? Or maybe it comes with an instant GQ boyfriend, just add a drop of water on the passenger side?
On the low end? Well, I'm envisioning an old Geo Metro from 1989, in 2013. Do you remember those things? Even when they were brand new, they were deathtraps on wheels. I had a friend get rear-ended in one and the backseat was in the front with little more than a tap. Or it could be like the VW bug I drove when I was 16. I remember I had planks of wood in the backseat on the floor because the floor had completely rusted through. If you lifted up the wood, there was the road. It was all very Flintstones! Anyway, you could get a car full of rust and problems that still runs, but with a serious element of added risk to your life every time you got within five feet of it.
Now, we could have a Bugatti... if we could afford it. Even if we could pop the $2+ million price-tag, it doesn't end there. There are insurance costs, and special maintenance costs, and I bet it drinks gold-plated gasoline and oil too. Special supplies for a top of the line, super-vrooom!-type of car.
We could also have a beater. We could spend very little to buy one, but it would be dangerous every time we used it. We'd never be able to rely on it starting, much less getting us to wherever it is we're driving to. It wouldn't be safe, safety ratings have changed, rust, structural deterioration, maybe a potted plant growing out of the carburetor...
In relation to our bodies, I view the Bugatti as a cover-model for a fitness magazine type of body. Yes, you could have it, but it's going to cost you. It'll cost you hours of working out every day. It'll cost you giving up your treats and really even non-treat foods in order to eat so super clean that the body-gods would start singing every time you walked into a room. It would mean you'd probably be a bit on the hungry side, the left out side, the tired side. You might need supplements too. All the things you would have to do and have to give up are costs. This is what a body like that will cost you, and it's not a one time payment - it's a lifetime payment plan.
The beater-car, well that's like weighing 600 lbs and not being able to get out of bed. That's being housebound, and living without exercise. That's health issues like your heart and your joints and everything else being a risk. You'd never know when your body would fail on you, and it's unlikely to take you where you want to go. There is little cost involved in the form of effort, because there's no exercise required. No restrictions on saying no to a type of food or making a choice to eat healthier. Little effort-cost, high-problem-cost, and high risk, that is what a beater-body would be like.
Well, no one wants to live in a beater body, just like everyone would prefer to drive a car that isn't the same way. At the same time, everyone would love a perfect body (or a car like a Bugatti) but so few of us can afford the cost and upkeep! But the auto-world is not made up of only two types of cars, and our bodies do not only offer two levels of existence. What about all the cars in between? There is everything from the tiny sedan and mini-vans all the way up to big SUVs and higher end cross-overs and "luxury" cars. Our bodies work the same way, and what it really comes down to is how much can you afford, and what are you willing to spend?
I think that the biggest mistake we make towards our bodies is telling ourselves we're willing to do the Bugatti-body, and this little plan is going to do the trick. It'll make the payments for us. And then we fail. Because it isn't about the plan, sure you can get a plan. But can you make the payments? Because NO ONE can do that for you.
We also don't want a beater-body. We want better than that, and we're willing to do at least some of what needs to be done in order to not be in that situation. Right?
OK, so where does that leave us? It leaves us with the knowledge that we are willing to spend on ourselves. The question is how much? It's not about money, it's about actions. What actions are you willing to spend? Are you willing to completely give up every single food you enjoy? No? Ok.... How about all the junk-food for a couple days a week? More? Are you willing to eat healthy for three days a week? Five? Six? How about exercise? How much time are you willing to do spend working out in a day? Or week? How hard are you willing to exercise? What about unexpected events like birthday parties or going out to dinner that pop up? Are you willing to either not go, or sit at the table sipping water rather than knocking back cheese and wine with everyone else? Or is it important to you to be able to participate and have a slice of pizza too?
It's not about judgement. We all know the perfect answers would be "Oh, I'll sacrifice everything! I'll do everything!" But that's not reality for most of us. Most people are somewhere in between the high-end-effort and the beater-effort. There is a lot of room there. So, without judgement, it's important to find out how much we're willing to spend. What is our budget? What things will we do or not do?
Once we know what our budget is, we can then go "shopping" and settle on the "vehicle" that suits our needs, wants, and our budget.
For myself on the car-front, I drive a Veracruz. It's not a sports car, of course, but it's not the VW bug without a floor I drove either. Heck, it's not the Jeep I used to drive! The Jeep Cherokee was a nice car, but the Veracruz was more luxurious on the inside. More room, cushier, satellite radio, and the best thing? A little button that says "mood" that you can push even when driving and a low, purple-blue light goes on in the ceiling. I don't know what mood they were shooting for, but I have a cool purple-blue light for no reason, and I can turn it on any time I want! It's a completely pointless perk, and I love it.
I don't drive a high end sports car. I don't even drive a high-end luxury whatever. I drive a middle-of-the-pack cross-over. I picked this vehicle because it seats seven people, and I needed the room with kids and relatives, but also because all the back seats flatten and I can haul even my biggest collection of paintings and all sorts of things inside too. It fit me. It fit my family. Sure, I may wish that I had a corvette or something, but I know that it would be a mismatch to my lifestyle (I once owned a new Camaro for a week - pre-kids. I imagined myself as uber-sexy for that week... and then I drove it in the rain and thought I was going to die, so back it went.)
I'm still figuring out my body budget. I realize now that it's time to be honest about some things. For example, while I am willing to work out six days a week, I am not willing to work out for more than an hour maximum. While I am willing to eat healthy most of the time, I am not willing to give up my seasonal coffees, and I want to be able to have whatever I want once a week. I want a day without guilt. While I am willing to eat healthy on my "good" days, I want the option to sometimes have that bagel or piece of (healthier) lasagna instead of sticking with steamed vegetables and a baked skinless chicken breast every night of the week. I want healthy, but I want flexibility too. I know I cannot achieve perfection.
I know that as I figure out more of what I am willing to do (or not), I'm going to have to adjust my expectations of body image to match. Sure, there are creative ways to change certain things, like perhaps try a new exercise that yields a slightly different body result in the time that I am willing to spend (kind of like my purple-blue light in my car!) But in the end, we all have to work within our budgets.
Our budgets may mean that maybe we're not going to be a size two. Maybe a size 8 is what we can afford, and maybe? Just maybe? Maybe a size 8 isn't that bad. Maybe a size 8 fits us perfectly, and is just what we're meant to have. Maybe a size 8 is healthy at the doctor's office, but not thin enough for a runway modeling contract. Well that's OK. I'm not a runway model. I'm going to budget and then seek out the body that is the right fit for me.
Even if I could have one, a Bugatti wouldn't fit my life. Where would my children sit? How would I get paintings to shows? Where would I even put groceries? (My guess is that if you can afford a Bugatti, you also have a staff that does all of that for you. You likely haven't set foot in a grocery store in your life! That is not who I am, even if I won the lottery, that would never be who I am.)
A magazine-cover worthy body? That doesn't fit my life either. I'm not trying to show my body to anyone, I just want to live a long healthy life with my kids, and have a smaller pant size for myself. But it doesn't have to be the SMALLEST pant size. This is about living my life in this body for me. This is about what I am willing to spend, and how best to spend it for my own life and circumstances.
So, I'm not a Bugatti-body. I'm not a Geo Metro either. I'm figuring it out, slowly. I'm working through every aspect of things, trying to figure out what I am going to be OK with on a personal level. Will my life be miserable if I have an extra 5 or 10lbs on my body, but I'm healthy and able to spend what I want to spend? Can I accept that? This is about my whole life, not just five minutes of it. This is about lifestyle, not diets. This is about living, a real life, in a real body.
It's going to take some time, figuring out my budget. It should take time. This is not an easy question to answer, if you are being honest with yourself - there are just too many layers to throw out a quick response. Going forward once I have my answer, things may change. For example, as my children get older and eventually move away, my life will be different and thus likely an adjusted budget to work with. Circumstances do change. But if you know now what you truly have to work with, you can make an informed choice for a better life on a realistic level, and then reassess as your resources and circumstances change.
And that? Being honest and real with yourself, your needs, your limitations? That is the answer to finding the healthiest life and body for yourself, and to stop fighting yourself. It's the fighting that causes failure. It's the unrealistic idea that we can buy a Bugatti-Body on a Jeep-Budget. Or that the Bugatti-body is what would make your life better.
Being honest with yourself about who you are, what you want, and what you are willing to spend, is what will lead to you finally finding true health and peace with your body - and THAT is worth the price.
Kyra blogs at The (never ending) Adventures in Fitness (and life)
Image credit: 401(K) 2012