Aging Isn’t the Enemy…Or the Goal
People over fifty-five are now the fastest-growing demographic for gym membership.
Taking care of our bodies is a great thing. We all should do it.
But obsessing over our bodies is a bad thing. None of us will live in our physical bodies forever. Don’t feel guilty that you will eventually die.
We don’t have to be preoccupied with physical health. Keep it in perspective. That’s the premise in this new book about aging: Aging is a natural process; everybody that lives long enough will experience it.
Aging itself is not abnormal.
In Natural Causes, Barbara Ehrenreich helps us release the blame that we often get from the medical establishment, the food industry, and the stay-young-forever advertisements, to try to live forever in a pristine body here on earth.
“We can, or think we can, understand the causes of disease in cellular and chemical terms, so we should be able to avoid it by following the rules laid down by medical science: avoiding tobacco, exercising, undergoing routine medical screening, and eating only foods currently considered healthy.
Anyone who fails to do so is inviting an early death. Or to put it another way, every death can now be understood as suicide.”
Ehrenreich argues against the obsession and the blame. She does not see every death as a suicide for failure to prevent itself.
While parts of the book sunk too deeply into minutiae for my tastes, overall the book was an encouraging read. It helps us understand that while we do have some control over our bodies, our lives, and our deaths, we don’t need to overly preoccupy ourselves with controlling every little thing.
Do what you can, but don’t obsess about it. Enjoy life. Accept death. Let go of the crushing responsibility to monitor every aspect of your health at all times to the utmost degree.
Quality of life is more important to me than quantity.
As an aside, Ehrenreich writes only from a secular viewpoint, so I felt there were chapters left unwritten. She didn’t address that we carry God around with us in these physical bodies in this life. She also didn’t address life after physical death. But thankfully, believers understand that we don’t have to depend solely on this physical life for everything. It helps us keep a looser grip on it; therein lies freedom.
I still exercise several times a week and I *try* to eat healthy; I want to feel good and respect my body.
But my worth doesn’t depend on my outside body. My inner self is where true Life resides.
Favorite Excerpts from Natural Causes:
“The truly sinister possibility is that for many of us, all the little measures we take to remain fit—all the deprivations and exertions—will only lead to a longer chance to live with crippling and humiliating disabilities.”
“Once I realized I was old enough to die, I decided that I was also old enough not to incur any more suffering, annoyance, or boredom in the pursuit of a longer life.”
“Being old enough to die is an achievement, not a defeat, and the freedom it brings is worth celebrating.”
“If there is a lesson here it has to do with humility. For all our vaunted intelligence and “complexity,” we are not the sole authors of our destinies or of anything else. You may exercise diligently, eat a medically fashionable diet, and still die of a sting from an irritated bee.”
* * *
My thanks to NetGalley
for the review copy of this book
- 7 Books I Recommend – May 2018
- On the Blog – May 2018
What an interesting premise! I don’t know that I can completely agreee with it, though. I live with the world view that my body is God’s handiwork and temple, and just letting go and indulging in whatever pleases me would be irresponsible. Balance is the key—I don’t need to obsess over my health, but I do need to take care of the gift God gave me.
I may not have explained the author’s view clearly; I apologize. She definitely advocates for balance. She just avoids obsession. (I’ll go back in and edit to make that more clear, so thanks for your comment, Anita! We’re on the same page.)
My parents died 7 and 8 years older than my age now, and I am trying not to obsess about that as I grow older. 🙂 I know that ultimately my times are in God’s hands, yet humanly I’d like to live longer than they did. They had some bad habits that I don’t, but I have some that they didn’t. And then the science on what’s good and bad for you changes so frequently. I was stunned to learn that Bob Harper (no relation), a trainer from The Biggest Loser who specializes in exercise, eating right, and healthy living, had a heart attack. You can do all that right and *still* have a heart attack? Ack! But that’s even more a reminder that our efforts only go so far.
Though I need to do a better job stewarding the body God gave me to live in, I appreciate the reminder not to obsess over it.
My parents died (relatively) young (early 70s) so that weighs on my mind, too. They both ate healthy almost all their lives and were active until the end. Yet my dad died with a quick case of cancer and my mom died after an extended time with Alzheimer’s. I do want to do what I can to stay healthy, but yes, our efforts only go so far. Trusting God with my days now and later is the most at-peace thing I can do.
Interesting. I have always kind of looked forward to getting older. I want to be wise and more comfortable in my own skin. Plus, my Mom passed away right before she turned 55, so to me it is a privilege. I want to be there as grandkids grow up!
That’s a beautiful attitude about aging, Sarah! I need to adopt that for myself. 🙂 You’re right that getting older is indeed a privilege. I am grateful that I’ve made it to 55. But I would like a few more years to see my grandkids grow up too.
‘Let go of the crushing responsibility to monitor every aspect of your health at all times to the utmost degree.’
Yes, I’ve learned this needed truth from those who have battled cancer.
I guess there’s a difference between being pro-active and being obsessed, Lisa. And the line can be fine …
Nicely said, Linda: “there’s a difference between being pro-active and being obsessed.” I definitely don’t want to get lazy about my health, but I don’t want to fret over it either.
It’s funny; I’ve spent my whole life in the gym. What I started to fulfill my selfish and vain flesh God has used to bring health amidst life’s stresses.
What I’d give to have all my cartilage and discs back…
I hear you. I’m thankful that God gave me the ability to work out consistently through the years, but I wonder about the toll it’s taken on my joints. I guess the good still outweighs the bad though, right?