We all care about our friends, and so we offer them advice when we feel like they are not taking proper care of their health. This can concern various health issues.
You should stop smoking. Lung cancer will kill you.
You should give up alcohol. You’ll damage your liver.
Don’t do drugs. Addiction will ruin your life.
You should watch your diet. Obesity means early death.
We might say some of these with more severity than others, but in the long run, they are all equally harmful.
I believe what someone does with their body is entirely their business. If something makes you happy, and you think that happiness is worth facing the consequences, then as long as it isn’t harming others*, you should go right ahead and do it. We do live only once.
Of course, if you care about someone, you would rather they don’t harm their bodies. But think of it this way – how happily they live their life is infinitely more important than how long they get to live it.
I know it’s not as simple as that. Some people might not actually be aware of the possible repercussions, or they might want to stop but find themselves unable to.
Here’s how I deal with friends when I see them developing health habits they might later regret.
1. The first question to ask them is whether they tried it willingly or because they were pressured into doing it. Consent is important. Since they are the one whose life is going to be affected by this decision, they should be able to take full responsibility for it.
Not only do you need to make sure they aren’t being forced into doing something they aren’t comfortable with, you also need to make sure they understand that they cannot later blame somebody else for what they chose to do.
2. Ask them why they are doing it. Does it make them happy? Does it help them deal with their otherwise stressful life? Are they sure they aren’t doing it just because everyone else is?
Are they sure they don’t want to stop but are unable to? If the answer to all those questions is a yes, then maybe your friend doesn’t need your advice after all.
3. Finally, make sure they fully understand the repercussions and are willing to deal with them. So, if your friend wants to try smoking a fag, make sure they are aware of the consequences it will have on their health. Make sure they are okay with the idea of facing those consequences.
For instance, I like ice-cream and fried food. I know they cause obesity. I know obesity causes lots of health problems and might result in my premature death. But d’you know what? I am okay with that. I am okay with dying early as long as I die doing what I love.
However, I am not validating the mindset that it’s okay to completely let go of your health. That’s a very selfish thing to do. Sure, live your life the way you want to, but spare a thought for those who care about you; be sensitive to their feelings.
Remember that even though it is your life, anything done in an extremity can cause harm to not just you but to others as well. So, do what you love, but do it responsibly.
I don’t complain that I’m fat because I know it is nobody else’s fault. I am not fat because I can’t help it, I am fat because I am not bothered about it. The day I decide I want to prioritize my health over my desires, I will do it. The important thing is that I am in full control of the situation.
Therefore, that’s the approach I take while dealing with somebody else’s health decisions.
That does not mean I look down upon those who do care about their health. You want to abstain from alcohol? You prefer to consume a healthy diet? More power to you, man. It’s your life, your body, do with it what you wish. And let others do the same.
*I am well aware that smoking can be harmful not only to you but also to those around you. Therefore, I do not support smoking in public. Like I said, do what you want with yourself, but respect other people’s decisions about their health. Which means you don’t force passive smoking upon others.
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