Someone recently said “If you’re healthy, that’s all that matters.” And you hear this both in the discussions around weight loss and in the very different realm of pregnancy and new babies. “As long as the baby is healthy, that’s all that matters.”

I recently ran across an article in which parents of an expected baby *KNEW* their child was going to be born with significant health problems. And every time a well-meaning acquaintance, stranger, friend, or family member would say the inevitable, “As long as they’re healthy, that’s all that matters,” there was this awkward pause. These parents KNEW their baby wasn’t going to be “healthy” according to the normal standards. Now what do you say? What do you do when you face known health risks, limitations, and varying disabilities?

In the context of weight loss, health is still a tricky subject. And after some regular reading of material posted by Ragen Chastain (check out her http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/faqs/ Frequently Asked Questions), I’m starting to recognize how healthy habits and body results are so variable and tricky.

And I would like to face this reality: it’s also okay to be dealing with things in your life that compromise your health. What if you are dealing with diabetes? That doesn’t change whether I think you are worthy of respect. What if you have back problems? Or flexibility or mobility issues? What if you have undiagnosed issues with fatigue? Or fibromyalgia? Or bone spurs? What if your body has limitations? That is STILL OKAY BY ME.

No one is obligated to pursue healthy habits. No one is obligated to “be healthy.” How about “be yourself” and then I’ll figure out whether you and I have things in common. If you’re a jerk, I don’t care if you’re healthy or not. If you’re an absolute doll, I don’t care if you’re bed-ridden and in pain. I will have fantastic relationships with fantastic people.

The only thing your body size tells me is your body size: It doesn’t tell me about your health. And the only thing your body health and limitations tells me is information about your health and limitations. So if you’re not as mobile, I’ll come hang with you. If you burn easily in the sun, we’ll do more indoor activities than outdoor. All that matters to me is that I will start from a place that says you’re worthy of respect (unless your behavior informs me otherwise).

Certainly I am not suggesting that *I* would know what’s best for *YOUR* body. I can only listen to the signals *my* body gives me and try to interpret them and respond to them in *my* preferred manner. Neither am I “a trained medical professional” so I’m unable to impart observations based on science and evidence and extensive research and experience. I can tell you that I don’t care if you have limitations or struggles or even fantastic health. I only care about whether I get a chance to treat you with respect and consideration. And then I can respond to how you behave and treat me and treat others. And that will establish whether we have a friendship or not.

I have a major philosophy and number one rule when I teach dance: NO PRESSURE, NO SHAME. And here’s what I mean by this: I will not *pressure* you to do anything in my class. I will strongly encourage you, I will provide instruction, I will give you opportunities to grow and build your skills. But I will not *pressure* you. If you need to rest, then do so. If you need a break, you don’t need to ask my permission. If you don’t feel comfortable with a move or spins or the length of this song, then take a break. No Pressure.

And here’s the tougher half of my rule: NO SHAME. There is no shame in taking a break or modifying your move. There is no shame in missing a class. There is no shame in having limitations in your body. I will not shame you, we will promise not to shame one another, and (here’s the kicker) I’m asking you NOT TO SHAME YOURSELF. That one makes almost everyone flinch when I explain it. Many of us have spent years shaming ourselves. It’s habit for many of us. I’m suggesting it’s time to stop it.

topkapi_palace_miniature

(source: http://www.e-turchia.com/Calendario_2004.htm) (About this image: The 18th centyry miniaturist Levni almost always depicted women holding flowers and with flower motifs in their appared. His paintings are noted for their colour palette of secondary shades and gentle expressions on the faces of his figures. Miniature album.TOPKAPI PALACE MUSEUM.)