Okay, okay, the photo of a lemon is there for a reason. But first, Bryan.

In response to an article I did recently which highlighted other folks’ fitness stories, most particularly past a Certain Age, Medium peep Bryan Martin wrote:

One of the blessings of getting older, you stop focusing on looking healthy and start focusing on being healthy. After that everything can fall into place.


Photo by Hanne Hoogendam on Unsplash

And you wonder why I pilfer my commenter’s words. Well, one reason is that they so often say what I’m trying to say, but better. For another, it’s just a lot more fun to highlight other folks’ great words and give them credit.

If I may: the lemon.

Bryan’s comment brought up an observation that I’ve been making lately about lemons. I have to drink fresh lemonade daily to help mitigate the effects of naturally-occurring oxalates in my food. This is a trick- not woo woo, please- advised by many if not most urologists. If you’ve ever had kidney stones, and mine nearly took me out last year, you are likely to want to do all you can to make sure you never have another one of those mofos again.

So, fresh lemonade.

A few weeks ago my local Kroger ran out of everyday, normal lemons. Flat out. The only lemons available were great, huge, fat, luscious-looking lemons. Twice the size and heft and thrice the price.

Imagine my disappointment, but not surprise, when it turns out that it’s nearly all rind. In that canny way that fruit scientists keep making things bigger but worse, this lemon was a lemon. Not only was it mostly rind, it was too big to fit into my squeezer. Not only that, the rind was so thick that even after rolling it hard on my counter, a trick that any natural-born Floridian knows, I still couldn’t squeeze out the juice.

Not only that, when I went after the pulp with a fork while squeezing, kinda the last-ditch effort to get some goddamned lemon juice out of my dollar lemon, I barely got a half teaspoon.

That is America for ya.

Smaller, softer lemons with thin rinds produce oodles of juice with minimal effort.

But they aren’t Big, Showy, Impressive.

You can see where I’m going with this.

You can have washboard abs and be near death from the starving it takes to maintain them. That ain’t healthy, that’s just stupid.

You can have boulder shoulders from steroids and in no time have no testicles, or grow facial hair if you’re female. That ain’t healthy, that’s just stupid.

You can have…nope. You get it.

The body building professionals’ world, the unregulated one which allows drug use, to be clear- is one of smoke, mirrors and horrifically ill bodies under all that striated muscle. Nothing healthy about too much of it.

I could go after many Instagram Influencers and likely unmask the same thing. All rind, no juice. No substance. No science.

What I love about Bryan’s succinct comment is that it gets right to the ugly beating heart of the American Image business: No matter what, look rich, look healthy, sell the image, until of course you die from complications of inadequate Vitamin B-12 from your oh-so-healthy extreme vegan diet, your “optimizing” fasting routines otherwise known as starvation otherwise known as anorexia or disordered eating.

My chiropractor is a retired professional athlete, and at 48 in ridiculously superb shape. He told me today during our session that the inherent poise that a healthy woman has which gives her body awareness and confidence is vastly more sexy and compelling than someone who invests in the fake eyelashes, fake boobs, even those who work hard to have a muscular body. That look is built on wobbly scaffolding. That’s true for all of us who are more invested in appearances than substance.

The healthy person knows they’re healthy. That kind of body authority is born of work, self-respect and self-love, which is acres away from the desperate, never-ending chase for the Holy Grail of Perfection.

You could, natch, make that analogy across the board: business, professional certifications, all of it. True power comes from having done the real work. Not just looking the part.

To illustrate my point, some years ago I went on a Match-com sponsored horseback ride up near Golden, Colorado. I’d gotten there early and was helping the owner, Ginger, tack up.

The folks trickled in. One was a short guy with a massive ten-gallon cowboy hat. A pristine cowboy hat. Fancy brand new boots. Not a single scuff. Crisply-ironed cowboy shirt right off the rack. The girls were impressed. Me, not so much.

He swaggered up to me and offered, “Say, little lady, want some help with that?”

Nope, I said as I swung the heavy saddle onto my horse’s back.

He got on his horse backwards. For the life of me, I do not know how you do that, but he did. Then when his horse trotted, he let out a squeal that sounded like a housewife with a mouse running over her foot. Need I go on?

He was an IBM salesman. Never been on or near a horse in his life. Dressing like a cowboy doesn’t make you a cowboy.

Looking the part doesn’t convey the skills. Nor does it deliver the fundamental confidence that comes with having focused on what truly matters: doing the real work. In this case, eating for health, moving for health, thinking for health, surrounding yourself with people and ideas and programs that support health.

A true, lifelong commitment to health is sexy, because it’s not contrived. Nor will it fall away, the way that steroid-pumped muscles can diminish when the user quits. If there is nothing in the tank when the tank is reduced to a Mini-Cooper, what a disappointment.

When you invest in health, you are healthy. Invest in appearances, you will forever be worried about when the mask melts off.

Because eventually it will.

I’m with Bryan. And I’m going back to small,cheap, fabulously juicy, impossibly wonderful and unimpressive lemons.

Photo by Visual Stories || Micheile on Unsplash