Social media is so incredibly weird. It’s great too; it can be extremely inspiring and connect us to people and communities that raise us up. I love that. LOVE it. It can also be overwhelming; so much information, so many curated images, so much pressure to join in!
This was a topic of discussion during a lecture I gave yesterday. Specifically, we were talking about educating and empowering our patients – helping people understand more about, and take charge of, their own health. This is a key philosophy underpinning naturopathic practice. Our discussion included some reflection on how to ‘walk the talk’… i.e. how best to model the behaviours and practices we encourage in others. How to be a perfectly healthy, completely balanced person? Or, conversely, whether we need to be perfect. Also, follow up question, what is perfect?
I shared the slide below with my students. An example of the juxtaposition that can, and will, live within all of us.
On the left is a picture I posted to Instagram earlier this week – organic rye sourdough with avocado, baba ganoush and sprouts. Delicious. So yummy. Really healthy. The kind of food that features in my, and my family’s, diet every day. Of course. Seems legit for a naturopath couple and their organic baby amirite.
On the right is a picture I sent to my friend Leah, also this week, with the caption “oh for God’s sake” – a jar of Nutella. That over-sweet ubiquitous ‘breakfast spread’ (just NO, by the way); a palm oil and trans fat laden confection. WITH MY DAUGHTER’S NAME ON IT. Hashtag absolutely unhealthy. A ‘gift’ for Molly that she will not eat, because she’s not even two and she has no idea what it is + that shit is nasty*. Doesn’t mean I haven’t dipped a spoon into said jar (several times) already. I could make my own, extremely yum and much healthier version, but I didn’t. I got stuck into this awful, delicious, stuff simply because it was in front of me.
The point I made by sharing these images, apart from poking fun at myself, is that it’s important to be realistic and compassionate about health practices. With ourselves and with others. Something I think is true for everyone, whether you work in health or not.
For those of us who are health practitioners, it’s easy to get caught up trying to embody all the advice we give our patients. All the time. Representing, by being, the idealised epitome of health. This is something I have experienced myself, observed in others and discussed with colleagues over the years. Of course, it’s true that we should live well and aim to inspire others to do same. BUT part of that process is being honest and human – this will ultimately drive connection and build rapport, two essential ingredients in a successful therapeutic relationship. If, however, we only share the ‘perfect’ – santised / edited / curated – version of ourselves, I would suggest we don’t open up to true connection. In fact, we continue to perpetuate the version of health that, while beautiful on the surface, doesn’t reflect most people’s actual experience.
So. I propose we get real. Let’s be honest with one another. Celebrate achievements. Embrace flaws. Enjoy our life, our health, while we are lucky enough to blessed with it. And share this joy with others.
* I do not think that eating Nutella is the worst thing for your health. But, I also don’t recommend including it in your diet. I wouldn’t buy it myself. I certainly wouldn’t feed it to my kid. There are heaps of yummy, just as decadent, and significantly healthier options to consider before throwing that in your trolley. However, good health also means a balanced attitude towards food. So you have some processed food, ok not a big deal. It’s one meal of many. Enjoy the experience for what it is, and don’t get caught up in guilt and worry around ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods – that is unhealthy in and of itself. It’s not just what you eat, but how and why. Be kind to yourself and focus on the diet and lifestyle practices that benefit your health.