Health Is NOT A ‘Personal Choice’

Hello Beautiful Soul;

Over the next two weeks I want to explore the idea that our health status, our health choices, our health habits and our wellness in general ISN'T fully a 'personal choice.'

I want to look at all the ways in which our health isn't always something we have control over, why it can sometimes look like people 'aren't trying hard enough' when it comes to their health, why we tend to JUDGE people who aren't in what we consider to be perfect states of health, and why coming to terms with the reality that health is complex and systemic is SO important.

I want to talk about the very real negative impact this idea that health is simply a personal choice has on our society, and why a cultural shift from pure individualism to a more collective and wholistic view of health will move ALL of us in a direction where health is more accessible.

Let's dive deep today into why believing health is a 'personal choice' is so harmful, and what we can do to move to something far more realistic and supportive.

Your Body/Health Status Is NOT A Reflection Of Your Worth:

Please know that in reality, the way you eat, the foods you can afford, your health status and the choices you make about your body have NOTHING to do with your worth, value or morality as a human being.

They have very little to do with your intelligence level. Nothing to do with how capable you are. They are not a reflection of your ‘lack of discipline’ or willpower.

I know there are a LOT of health/wellness influencers out there right now preaching that our food choices, our health status and our general lifestyles are: 

  1. Purely within our control and a result of our own choices 
  2. That there is a ‘right way’ to eat/be and if you aren’t this way you should feel shame 
  3. Are a moral reflection on your character/value in society

In reality, none of the above assertions are real.

None of them.

In reality, our relationship to food and our bodies, our health status, our health habits - these things are all occurring within the larger context of a society we didn’t design, a history we didn’t choose, a family lineage we are a result of, traumas we faced, conditions we were born into AND our free will choices within the confines of our actual physical reality. 

There are people on this planet who have access, who live in the right conditions, who don’t have a lot of trauma and who were in enough pain due to their ‘unhealthy’ lifestyles that they were able to use their muscles of free will and discipline to shift to new, healthier ways of being that gave them health outcomes they are happy to have. There is no denying this. Shifting from learned behaviors that are harming our health on some level to new ways of being that support vitality is ALWAYS hard. It’s always going to create pushback from those around us to some degree. It’s going to mean shifting values and priorities - making certain sacrifices. It’s going to mean trial and error and going without pleasure at times. It’s going to mean being uncomfortable as we aren’t quite settled in our ‘new way’ but aren’t able to rely on the old way for comfort anymore. Making changes that affect our health status and outcomes IS a real thing, and it IS hard. For everyone. No matter how much access and support you have - change is change and change is hard.

Thus when people make changes that benefit them, it’s natural to want to celebrate that, it’s natural to want others to have this experience too, it’s natural and easy to project our own circumstances onto those around us and assume that everyone is like us, could be like us, could to like us.

I get that.

But other people aren't us.

It’s sometimes difficult to see that those around us AREN’T us. That those who live in very different conditions and that come from very different backgrounds aren’t us. Again, as humans we tend to be pretty poor at actually empathizing with the experience of others, and this is especially true the greater the degree of difference between their experience and our own.

So it follows that people who’ve been able to shift their health status for the better in some way would project that capacity onto everyone around them - and then to assume that if people AREN’T doing what they chose to do, they must be not choosing that due to some flaw in their character. They must be weak. Lazy. Just making bad choices. Not taking responsibility for themselves. They must be stupid or uneducated in some way - why else would someone CHOOSE to stay doing something that’s harming their health? We can then slip into seeing people as being ‘drains on the system’ who just aren’t trying hard enough and then are asking for government and societal handouts to help them manage the ‘consequences of their bad behaviour’. We blame the government for not promoting healthy lifestyles or banning the things we see as toxic again, believing that if we just had basic to us ‘common sense’ rules we could all achieve health. We project laziness, willful denial of doing the right thing, stupidity and mismanagement for a plethora of reasons. 

Often times these judgements are rooted in the fact that the people who made the changes in their own lives see their past selves in this way.

They see their past, less healthy, in pain selves as stupid, ignorant, lazy, not trying hard enough - and their new self as a virtuous departure from that hated person they used to be. They have made these painful assumptions about their own experience and are now projecting that unhealed and un-integrated pain out onto everyone around them.

Also, we really WANT to believe that our health is FULLY in our own hands.

We want to believe that our health is purely a matter of our own choices, so that we can feel that we are in complete control. We don’t want to believe that there may be things that are out of our hands when it comes to our health - because then what? That makes us feel vulnerable, scared and like we could be in pain and not be able to prevent/fix it. We don’t want to believe in chronic illness that can’t be healed. We don’t want to believe in societal structures that make health impossible. We don’t want to see these things -because they remind us of the fragility our healthy lifestyles are helping us be ever the more numb to and separated from in our own minds. We don’t want to look at the existential reality of our existence - the body that decays over time leading to a death that is a total mystery to us. To hold the belief that health is purely a CHOICE is a protective mechanism that guards us from the reality of pain we can’t control and of a death we don’t understand.

These kinds of projections and judgements suck - they hurt and are hurtful - but they are arrived at honestly. They are a result of not knowing how to step outside our own world views, not understanding that our situation isn’t how ‘everyone’ is - and those who aren’t doing as we do must just be lacking intelligence - it comes from fear of death/illness and fear of other. It comes from existential dread we haven’t processed. It comes from our own internalized guilt and shame around our bodies/health/pain that we inherited from the world.


And.

It’s wrong.

It’s factually incorrect.

It’s negating facts, reality and the actual position most people in this world are in.

The real reality again is that SO much of our health outcomes are NOT within our control.

So Much Of Our Health Isn't Something We CHOSE Or Can Control:


We don’t choose our genetics - and those who are choosing to use their access and capacity to maximize their already healthy genes need to understand that not everyone is so blessed. There are COUNTLESS people on this planet that could engage in all the health practices in the world and still have a much, much lower baseline than some of the more vital among us. Some of us have chronic illnesses that we are working with, traumas, weaknesses that mean that even IF we exercise ALL of our capacity to do right by our bodies, we will NEVER achieve the optimal health enjoyed by some.

Yes we can make improvements. Yes we have some control over what we DO with what we were given. This is true. AND. We are all starting from different places and have varying levels of control. This must be respected.

Making improvements doesn’t always lead to perfect health. Or not needing support. This doesn’t always lead to being a perfectly perfect ‘productive’ member of society with no illness and maximum capacity to engage in the capitalist system we have so thoroughly glorified.


Second, we don’t choose the environments we are raised in, the access we have growing up, and the culture we are a part of.

The conditions of our early childhood have a MAJOR impact on what’s going to happen for us growing up, and what we are going to be working with as we step into adulthood - and we have NO control over that. We can’t convince our caregivers to feed us foods that work for us when they can’t afford them/don’t know that the foods they are choosing aren’t healthy. We don’t choose how we are programmed around food - what foods are going to MEAN to us mentally, emotionally and physically. We don’t get to choose the traditions and deeply ingrained SOCIAL patterns we are going to have that are going to have a drastic impact on how we are WIRED with food. These are all major factors in how we develop. We don’t choose our TRAUMAS and our nervous system programming around food/health/bodily expression or in GENERAL - and both of these things have a major causative effect in the habits we are going to develop as adults. We don’t choose the foods we get addicted to most of the time. We didn’t choose the bodies we inherited as adults and we didn’t choose the patterns set in motion by our upbringing. We didn’t choose to be deeply social beings where food is tied to belonging and safety. There is a LOT we come into adulthood with that we didn’t choose. 

This again doesn’t mean we can’t change these things if we are being harmed - but having access to what it TAKES to make these changes is not widely experienced. Being ABLE to do the work to dig ourselves out of these holes isn’t a given. We can do our best, and sometimes our best means we are stuck in patterns we didn’t choose. This is a reality. It sometimes means progress is going to be really slow. It sometimes means again that we are never going to achieve the ‘ideal’ in our hyper productive/optimal health is the only ‘right way’ society. Not because we aren’t trying - but because circumstances were stacked against that ever happening. Society isn’t set up for it. We aren’t set up for it. It is what it is. Yes we have some control, AND it’s hard. It’s not just our choices affecting us. Our society plays a big role - and changing society is a big job.

Lastly, again, we don’t choose our level of privilege. We don’t all have access. We don’t all have the capacity to put in the effort required to change our way of living. We don’t all have this as a priority - and to judge someone for not prioritizing their health is again a massive misunderstanding of how humans work. Health is not available to everyone. Even if people have financial or geographical access this still doesn't mean they can ‘easily’ choose to better their health situation. It doesn’t then mean they have access to what it takes to overcome all the barriers to health we face in this world. And for those who don’t have access again, to judge them as weak/lazy/choosing to harm themselves is just pure ignorance.

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Let's take a break here for today, and come back next week for a look at what we can DO to make this better for all of us.

<3

perceptiontrainers

Author perceptiontrainers

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  • […] In case you missed it, please do go read Part One of this post here. […]

  • Mary Anne Hoffman says:

    I see this very clearly. I see the ignorance of my self before 2018…and I judge myself harshly for it…and yes…so mindful and trying so hard not to project unhealed..unintegrated parts of myself onto others as I project them onto myself relentlessly. Working on it💗🙏🏻💐✨

    • perceptiontrainers says:

      I see you – learning how to step into new awareness without making that new awareness a weapon we use against ourselves – it’s a BIG deal. There’s actually a whole section on it in the Mystery School that you will get to eventually!

      That shame response is learned. It’s an attempt to keep us safe in a world where we weren’t safe and where we had to conform to expectation to survive. But it’s not TRUE to who you are.

      You’re allowed to learn without that meaning you were bad before.

      <3

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