Plato, Aristotle, and Your Fitness

What a title, right? 

Before you turn your nose up at a dry, academic, metaphysical interpretation of wellness in modern society, give me a chance to break this one down.

…And use it at your next dinner party, you’ll sound super smart.

Aristotle and Plato were two brilliant men who came to two very different interpretations on the nature of things.

Plato, with a heavy affinity for idealism, came to understand things as innate, free-floating ideas from which all variations were derived.

Aristotle with a passion for logic and metaphysics, came to understand the opposite -that the idea of things was composed of our embodied experiences with all of the things we categorize as “similar to”.

Modern Wellness Culture, as it stands, walks a fine line between these two approaches. If I were to ask you which of these philosophers’ ideas of “thingness” you agreed with, most of you would probably agree with Aristotle.

Where I think we start to trip up, and where I find my clients often get confused, is when we talk about wellness. How often have you heard the phrase, “this is supposed to be super good for you,” or its million variants?  It is an incredibly platonic phrase. It assumes that there is some sort of innate wellness smoothie floating in the sky from which we can derive wellness upon consumption.

Do you see the problem?

Here’s an example from my life:

My little brother and I have great fights about what’s healthy and our conversation looks like this…

Him: “Tell me something healthy I can have for dinner.” <-Plato

Me: “I dunno, what did you do/eat today?” <-Aristotle

Him: “Just tell me what to eat, K?” <- Stubborn little brother who is sick of Aristotle

Just because something makes sense for me, doesn’t mean it automatically makes sense for you. Somehow, even though we agree with Aristotle, we talk about wellness as though we were more aligned with Plato. Next time you catch yourself talking about something’s healthfulness, ask yourself, are you Plato? Or are you Aristotle?


Healthful Holidays

Managing your expectations for the holidays, and yourself, is always an interesting exercise in reflexivity.

My first instinct is to string up all the lights, bake all the cookies, attend all the parties, write all the cards and do all the day dreaming….while still eating mindfully and working out regularly.

And sometimes, I manage to do it all.

Most of the time, this is at the expense of my partner’s sanity (thanks, manfriend; sorry, manfriend).

So, first and foremost, let’s address the thing that will set us up for failure or success: our calendars. 

It’s important to decide which activities this holiday season are most important to you. If it’s the special holiday events that make you sparkle most, jot those into your day planner first. If it’s maintaining your workout regime or diet, plot out the time to address those priorities first.

If you decide that the holidays have precedence, even to the “detriment” of your exercise practices, stick to it. Have the Holiday-est Holiday anyone has ever seen. See:  To Exercise or Not

Once you’ve set up your calendar to reflect the time needed to do the thing you value most, season it with everything else. If your work, yoga, gym, and cardio mean you’re often up early and putting in long days, then that should be the bulk of your calendar soup. Add in your holiday adventures in a way that won’t impede the lifestyle you want to have, for example:

If yoga class is at 5:30 am Monday morning, it is unlikely that I will eat particularly poorly or stay up late at a Christmas party Sunday night.

However, if it is my best friend’s Christmas party and I can’t imagine missing it, I will reschedule yoga for another day that week…or even just drop it. There’s no point in setting my alarm clock for 4:45 and then feeling the fatigue and guilt of not going for hours afterwards.

So, be honest with yourself and what you care about, and don’t be afraid to drop the ball on certain things. They are, after all, your holidays. You should do with them as you please.