Two sets of numbers showed up in my life this morning.

What's your number? What does it matter?

First, my doctor called to tell  me that all my “numbers” from my recent blood test are excellent!  My “good” cholesterol is high, my “bad” cholesterol is low, my blood sugar is excellent…and so on.

Whew.  Dodged another bullet of  “What am I doing wrong? What could I do better? Where did I screw up?…”  messages from my inner health critic.

Then, a Facebook before and after photo posted by a respected fitness professional with the caption: “Have you seen this ladies? Strong is sexy so please stop obsessing about the number on the scale. Look at the numbers here.”

The photos show the “before exercise routine” photo at 9 pounds less than the “after” photo.  The subject gained weight through her fitness program, but the heavier version is a bit more toned, supposedly stronger and more fit than the lighter version. While the point is well taken–numbers aren’t the best indicator of fitness–the message still supports cultural objectification of health, fitness and beauty as being about external results rather than subjective experience of joy, vitality, well being.  The assumption is that we’d all feel better if we look “better” (i.e. more toned and shapely).

Does having a more toned body necessarily equate with good health?  I’ve met many people who were physically “fit” but in states of psychological and spiritual dis-ease.  Moreover, many journeys into anorexia begin with a diet and fitness program that progresses through a stage of what appears to be excellent  “fitness” but ends in a state of severely compromised physical health.

While both my blood results and the trainer’s point about weight move us in a more life-giving direction, they also reveal the disembodied nature of current models.   Health is still based on “numbers” derived from blood samples rather than one’s own body wisdom. Fitness is still measured by external results, not subjective experience of harmony and strength in body, mind and spirit.

Interestingly, while I’m certainly happy to have “good” numbers, some physicians and researchers are questioning the role of cholesterol in heart disease.

So, when it comes to health and fitness, I’m going to stick with the old-fashioned method: listening for my body’s signals as I eat an “old-fashioned diet” of whole foods and move my body for fun, function, and fitness–in that order.

And when my numbers change and my external appearance changes with the seasons of life, I’m going to hum and sing anyway.  It’s not about the numbers, its about feeling vital, strong, energized and well of body, mind and spirit.