There’s a lot that can distract us from good health. It’s easy to get busy, stressed, and tempted. But it’s possible to get so interested in good health that we minimize the times when we, for example, forget to exercise or pig out on junk food. It’s all about listening to what your body really wants: the good stuff of life.
I believe that everyone, deep down, wants to be healthy. This belief is more than just a philosophical premise. It’s a biological statement of fact. As a medical doctor once observed, “The human body is a healing machine.” Regardless of the nature and size of the damage, from the daily toll of oxidation to the incidental trauma of accident and disease, the body’s natural inclination is to be well and to get well.
Fortunately, the body’s desire for health operates on autopilot most of the time. We don’t have to think very hard to circulate fresh blood or to repair a broken bone. It just happens, from before we’re born to the end of our days. The body knows what it needs and gravitates naturally in that direction.
This is true not only for the nine internal systems (circulatory, digestive, excretory, glandular, immune, muscular, nervous, reproductive, respiratory, and skeletal) but also for the skin and teeth. The body detects when something isn’t right and acts quickly to set things straight.
Perhaps that explains why toddlers, in one experiment, tended to eat a healthy diet when left to their own devices in the presence of multiple food choices. On any given day, they were not always on target. Over the course of three weeks, however, they typically self-corrected and ended up with a healthy nutritional mix. Without any training in nutritional science, they consumed what their bodies needed most.
Unfortunately, a wide variety of environmental and psychological factors comes into play to hinder and block the body’s inherent desire for health. Once enough junk food was put on display, even those toddlers came undone. With enough toxins, stress and distractions, just about anyone’s inherent desire for health can be undermined, overwhelmed, and compromised.
I had to laugh at Ben Franklin’s account of his early interest in and practice of vegetarianism. At the age of 16, after reading a book by Tryon, Franklin made the countercultural decision to follow “a Vegetable Diet.” “My refusing to eat flesh occasioned an Inconveniency,” Franklin notes, “and I was frequently chid for my singularity.”
Notwithstanding the chiding of his peers, Franklin continued in this practice because he found that it saved him money, gave him more time to read, and increased his aptitude for his studies, since he gained “that greater Clearness of Head and quicker Apprehension which usually attend Temperance in Eating and Drinking.”
It wasn’t long, however, before Franklin found himself unable to maintain his vow. He was traveling for the first time by ship from Boston to Philadelphia when the crew caught and fried a large quantity of codfish. “Hitherto I had stuck to my Resolution of not eating animal Food,” Franklin observes, “and on this Occasion consider’d, with my Master Tryon, the taking every Fish as a kind of unprovoked Murder, since none of them had, or ever could do us any Injury that might justify the Slaughter. All this seemed very reasonable.”
“But I had formerly been a great Lover of Fish,” Franklin continues, “and, when this came hot out of the Frying Pan, it smelt admirably well. I balanc’d some time between Principle & Inclination, till I recollected that, when the Fish were opened, I saw smaller Fish taken out of their Stomachs: Then thought I, ‘If you eat one another, I don’t see why we mayn’t eat you.’ So I din’d upon Cod very heartily, and continued to eat with other People, returning only now & then occasionally to a vegetable Diet. So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable Creature, since it enables one to find or make a Reason for everything one has a mind to do.”
Isn’t that so true? People can always find reasons to justify their behavior, even when that behavior lacks justification. But that is the subject of another Provision. We’ll discuss later whether Franklin was wise to go back to eating fried fish and other flesh. For now, we’ll simply note the remarkable interest he took in his diet, long before the era of modern nutritional science, so much so that he would include it in his Autobiography fifty years later.
This was no fleeting, insignificant youthful dalliance. This was a considered and researched decision into what sort of diet might enable him to live long and prosper. He was obviously influenced by Thomas Tryon, a prominent vegetarian of the early 17th century whose book, The Way to Health, Franklin had apparently read. But he was also influenced by his own experience, as he continuously sought to do better. Discovering that vegetarianism saved him time, money, and mental alacrity, was exactly the kind of discovery for which Franklin was to become famous.
Such discoveries are not, however, the province of a select few. Anyone can take an interest in their health, as Franklin apparently did, and discover for themselves the things that work better.
This kind of interest has been part of my transformation from a sedentary, 10-cup of coffee, 2-donut a day kind of guy five years ago to someone who now enjoys green and red tea with his heart-healthy snacks and meals not to mention a daily run. It’s not that I’m trying to be good. The whole health thing has become quite effortless and second nature. It’s more that my inherent desire for health, the same desire that I believe is in each one of us, has come to the fore with passion and pizzazz.
I enjoy discovering and giving my body the things it really wants, the things that make for health. Through a combination of reading and experience, I have learned to pay attention to my body on a different level than before. And it really has produced something better. Not only do I have more energy for life, I have also become more sensitive to life.
What will it take for you to get more interested in health? I hope you don’t wait for a debilitating crisis. I hope you learn from the experience and testimony of others. There really is a good life out there; all you have to do is get passionately interested in pursuing it to make it your own.
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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Reader’s Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. These selections do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. They do reflect the diversity of those who read Provisions each week for support and strength on the trek of life. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.
Thanks a lot for this week’s Provision. It certainly is one that I will need to read more than once.
Can a six-year-old child read your forthcoming book? Have you thought of ever coaching children? (Ed. Note: We have coached teenagers, but never young children. Thanks for the provocative question.)
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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