Editors are, as a group, given to tinkering. It’s part of what makes us good at what we do, and in many ways, an inherent aspect of who we are. Editors — like many others invested in the pursuit of excellence — are always on the lookout for ways we might improve upon the status quo. In our line of work, that means we’re constantly struggling to make words and ideas clearer and more creative, to make stories and sidebars more engaging, to help our readers get more out of every line, every paragraph, every page. This quest can be exhilarating. It can also be exhausting. Plus, it’s difficult, at times, to know if all that effort is really necessary — or even beneficial. How can one be sure when something decent should be made better, when something good is good enough, and when something wonderful is better left alone?
Editors, of course, aren’t the only ones regularly confronted with this question. Many of us, and particularly those of us invested in improving our health and fitness, can easily fall victim to our own “gotta make it better” manifestos. While there’s a lot to be said for the commitment to becoming one’s personal best, there are also some potential hazards. When our self-improvement ambitions crank into overdrive, for example, they can dissuade us from slowing down long enough to enjoy our successes. They may prevent us from really listening to the internal voices that tell us what would be best for us right now. They can cause us to be less than kind to ourselves when we don’t live up to our own sometimes unrealistic expectations. Finally, they can make our health and fitness routines far more complicated than they really need to be.
There are gazillions of different diet and exercise programs out there, hundreds of gadgets, supplements and other products that promise to make us more the way we want to be — typically in just “minutes a day.” Some of those products and programs have real merit; some don’t. But regardless of their potential value, in many cases their very complexity serves to distract us from more fundamental concerns — about the way we are living and treating ourselves, and what, if anything, we would most benefit from doing differently.
When it comes right down to it, what our bodies most want is really quite simple: They want to be treated with respect. When they get that, they tend to maintain (or rapidly return to) their natural state of good health and vitality. And when they don’t, even the most sophisticated fitness or nutritional regimens can fail to perform as promised: The weight just won’t drop. The muscle won’t grow. The illness won’t heal. The depression won’t lift. It may seem that even our best efforts work against us.
Now, respecting one’s body sounds simple enough. But like most things, it’s easier said than done — in part because that effort begins with accepting and loving our body the way it is. That doesn’t mean we can’t strive for better health or fitness, or even set ambitious goals along those lines. We must first accept, though, that our bodies typically reflect the level of care we’ve been showing them. So if we don’t like what we’re feeling and seeing, that’s probably a very accurate sign, from a very intelligent body, that something in our lives is a little (or a lot) out of whack. Our bodies deserve our deep gratitude and respect — not our disdain and resentment — for giving us that heads-up.
Once we have acknowledged that our bodies are good and right the way they are, we can begin to evaluate whether the most basic building blocks of good health are in place. Are we getting enough whole foods and clean water? Enough sleep? Enough movement? Enough time for relaxation, recovery and pleasure? Are we living in integrity with our values? Or are we forcing and sneaking and skimping all over the place — trying to fit in too much, get by on too little, make things happen too soon? Our bodies are wise enough to discern if our so-called self-improvement efforts are truly in our best interest, or just a cleverly disguised act of self-loathing and rejection. I know it sounds odd, but often the fastest way to transform something is simply to love it like it is. To find it good and then make it better — or to decide, conversely, that at least for the moment, it’s better left alone.
In this issue, we present a variety of articles and ideas that celebrate simplicity in all its forms — from basic foods to silent sports to enduring truths. And underscoring it all is a conscious appreciation of the things we take for granted most often, namely our health, our relationships and perhaps most of all, our peace of mind.
Hey, we’re all for tinkering. But while this magazine’s mission is all about helping you live “happier, healthier, for real,” we’re also here to remind you that life is good, that all things are possible, and that you are quite wonderful — just the way you are.