True Independence

Summer has finally come to the Pacific NW and once again, a Facebook post is the inspiration for this piece.

My friend writes: I don’t usually run if the weather is over 75, but I need to burn off some of those 4th of July calories.

I didn’t “Like” or “Comment” on her post because I don’t think she would have liked what I had to say; something so important, yet so easily misinterpreted through this form of communication.

We cannot “burn off” 4th of July calories, my friend. It simply isn’t possible because we are not the math equation that the current diet and exercise paradigm suggests. We cannot “burn off” something we eat any more than we can “earn” ice cream.

But that’s the mindset that so many of us fall into when we think in terms of “diet and exercise.” When we link diet and exercise together, we start thinking of our bodies in terms of a balance sheet. We believe that if we consume more calories than we burn, we will gain weight. If we burn the same amount of calories as we consume, we’ll maintain our weight. And if we can burn more calories than we consume we’ll lose weight.

Not only is this thinking flawed – we are far more than a math equation – it creates erroneous ideas and dysfunctional relationships with food, exercise and our bodies. It creates this notion that food is something we must somehow earn – especially if we enjoy it. Exercise becomes a price we must pay to be able to eat. If we don’t pay the price through exercise, we’ll pay the price through adverse effects on our body shape and size.

The sad thing is that most of us don’t realize that the diet and exercise paradigm itself is the trap. And we can never hope to be free if we are blind to the chains binding us.

Diet and exercise are indeed important. But their significance relates to how they affect our state of being rather than how they relate to each other. When we can unhook “diet and exercise,” we stop thinking of ourselves in terms of a balance sheet. We eat food that we enjoy for the sake of satisfying our hunger with food we like. There’s no price to pay – it’s a God given right – just like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We exercise our bodies not to burn off calories. We move our bodies to feel good in them and to connect with the wisdom and guidance they have to offer us.

When we can let “diet” and “exercise” be two separate, independent ideas, we free ourselves from the bondage of the balance sheet. We can enjoy food without guilt, and we can find pleasure and satisfaction in exercise. We can learn to harness the power of happiness and alignment to create the changes we desire. And that is truly an independence day to celebrate.