Riots Not Diets

Hating your body is blocking your love of life

Updated December 21, 2020
A pink background with a glowing white light in the centre.

In the School of Life Video “Reasons to Remember Death” Alain de Botton says:

“We should use the thought of death…to shake us into more committedly pursuing the life we know we need to lead. We will act when the fear of death is finally allowed to trump the fear of failure or humiliation, compromise or shame. We need, with the best of intentions, to nurture fear… Terrify yourself, not in the name of despair, but of impatient, courageous authenticity.”

But instead of being amazed by this priceless, finite organism that we are, and revelling in the unlikelihood of our existence, we get it backwards. We’ve convinced ourselves that, in order to truly live our lives, we first have to have perfect bodies first.

To love our bodies—to love our lives—we attempt to manipulate them. We work to get our cocker spaniel selves to look like greyhounds; we try to get our petunias to look like lillies.

We are definitely not “letting death trump the fear of failure or humiliation.” Instead, we are letting the fear of cellulite trump our happiness.

And then, one day, we receive notice of our dying, our death. The years spent attempting to make ourselves thin, to make our arms shapely, to sculpt our butts, completely fails to stave off the inevitable. Sickness comes, disability comes, vulnerability comes. Death comes.

(For some of us, while we still have time, we double down on the dieting and food restriction game: avoid gluten, ’cause gluten causes cancer! Drink all the green tea, ’cause green tea melts cancer! Eliminate all of the things! Because that’s where our modern religion is at now and dieting is more satisfying than praying! Yes, I’m looking at you, Dr. Oz, Kris Carr and the Food Babe.)

What de Botton is suggesting here is that you let the fear of your own death trump your fear of a flabby belly. You put your love of life first, with the full knowledge that death will come for all of us, including those with a thigh gap.

If you decide to let death terrify you in the name of “impatient, courageous authenticity,” then this means a cease-fire with your body, simply because your body is your life.

Think about it: your body is the thing that does your living. Right now, your body, with its beating heart, inflating lungs, and digesting guts, literally defines you as alive. This living organism, which so many of us have been taught to hate, is the thing that’s gonna die one day.

Your body is not a problem to be solved.

You deserve to spend your life “committedly pursuing the life you know you were meant to lead.” You don’t need to wait—you know death won’t!—to change your body before you do that.