Wabi Sabi


Wabi Sabi is a Japanese ideology implying a simple philosophy — nothing is perfect; nothing is permanent and nothing is finished. But… you make your peace with it.

This is very relevant to health, weight, fitness and wellness. It seems to imply that you accept the deterioration of your body or consider obesity, ill health and disease a natural part of aging and make peace with it. Since nothing is perfect, why bother trying to make it so? Since nothing is finished, why bother starting? And since nothing is permanent, what is the point of attempting to stay fit or improve health?

To me, however, it embodies something slightly different. It signifies the very essence of taking care of oneself for the right reasons, using the right methods.


Nothing is perfect

Life situations are never perfect. But you make the best of them.

Sometimes, you may not have the time to exercise, you may be travelling or have sick kids to contend with. You may work long hours, be stressed and live under duress of deadlines.

You don’t always have the time. You make the time. That’s just what you do when something is important enough in your life.

Even a 20-minute workout at home is better than nothing at all if you can’t get to the gym. A quick run on the treadmill or a swim in the pool in your hotel while you are travelling is better than sulking about your endless travel and how it impedes your fitness.

You may be obliged to attend lunches and dinners. This does affect your diet resolutions, but instead of sampling everything on the menu and living with the guilt, strategise how to eat sensibly. Weigh your food options and make reasonable choices at every meal. Compensate for an indulgence by having a few light meals and making sure you work out. These are coping mechanisms to stay on track.

We have been programmed into believing in the kind of physical perfection portrayed by the media. Not everyone can look like the model on the cover of a magazine, not even the model on the magazine cover! Trying to look like somebody else is a wasteful exercise. Trying to adhere to the dictates of society to be certain size or appear a certain way will not necessarily get you a healthier body. Rather you’ll end up with lot of angst and frustration.

Instead of watching your weight, counting calories, exercising maniacally, talking endlessly about it and worrying about not losing weight all the time… spend time establishing healthy life habits.


Nothing is finished

The human body is a work in progress. We usually start exercising with simple goals — lose 10  kg; get into that dress; run a marathon or trek up the Himalayas.

Once we achieve those goals, what next? We must continue to include fitness in our day. Change our routine to make us better. Try new forms of exercise.

Mostly, we are in a hurry to perfect and ­finish a process. We forget that the ­process itself is part of the journey and is more relevant than the end-point. The journey is the ‘now’; the destination is the ‘future’. We are in a hurry to lose weight, to reach the destination faster. We find ways to do it quickly, shabbily and with no regard for the true physiology or functioning of the human body.

We fail to understand that we as humans can never be a finished product, perfect or permanent. If we lead mindful lives, our bodies are ever changing, evolving and progressing.

Fitness is a journey, not a destination.

In our quest for weight loss and looking better, we tend to lose perspective. Understanding the bigger picture, that losing weight should not be the one and only priority, is what keeps people from falling off the wagon. If people spent half as much time focusing on their health and fitness as much as they’re focusing on their physique, they’d be much better off and more successful at it. Feeling defeated by a few setbacks and giving up at the first signs of difficulty is a sure way to take two steps forward and three steps back. Pick yourself up and move on! The difference between those who manage to stay on track despite hurdles and those who take detour on their way is purely their belief in themselves that they can!


Nothing is permanent

Life changes. We change. Nothing is permanent.

We age. That is the normal physiological process. Yet, youth is revered. Even when we know it is never permanent, we strive to hang on to it with our teeth and the tips of our fingernails. The tremendous surge in people for Botox, lasers, facelifts and tummy tucks are testimony to our infinite need to stay young and beautiful.

Aging gracefully is an art. Keeping your body strong, all the while growing intellectually and spiritually, is not the same as trying to hold on desperately to youth. Work with the flow, rather than against it. Build strength, maintain stamina, improve flexibility.

Understanding that nothing is permanent should keep us moving forward. Even good health, a great body, astounding intellect or a superior athletic capability, is not permanent unless you continue to work at it.

Even elite athletes know that their athletic prowess declines with age. Our bodies change in myriad ways as we age and we need to look at ways of working towards bettering ourselves. We may not be able to run a marathon in our later years (although many do), but we will be able to continue to exercise, strengthen our bodies and keep ourselves free from disease. We don’t have to succumb to obesity or ill health resulting from poor lifestyle habits.

–        When you value your body for its uniqueness and for what it can do rather than simply what it looks like.

–        When you actually listen to it, give it what it needs not just what you want.

–        When you stop punishing it for not looking the way you think it should.

–        When you use exercise as a way to celebrate and enjoy your body’s capabilities.

–        When you thrill in the aftermath of a long strenuous weight training session or feel the joy of quivering legs after a run…


Then fitness has become a way of life for you and not just a means to an end… and this in itself is a gift.

The attitude that allows a semblance of peace within us is one of coming to terms with a situation — accepting the imperfect, impermanent and unfinished nature of everything and yet staying motivated to continue to improve one’s body, mind and life.

The author, an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, is a fitness & lifestyle consultant, and has published two books: Get Size Wise; Gain to lose.


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