The Road to Healthiness
“A healthy outside starts from the inside” — Robert Urich
Picture two people, Person A goes to the gym every day, drinks a tortuous spinach and beet concoction, and never, ever, lets a single gram of processed sugar enter their body. Now picture another, Person B, who incorporates exercise into their daily activities, who generally eats healthy, but has that occasional cupcake. Now think about which person seems more healthier. Unfortunately, in our society, Person A is seen as the health guru, the lighthouse of healthiness. Person B just seems like the everyday Joe, who made a new year’s resolution to be Person A but then caved once he realized he had to give up carbs. How can we just compare the two and deem Person A to and declare that they are healthy? Is healthiness just based on the food you eat or the way you look? In order to truly understand what being healthy is it is important to understand that regardless of whether one is a “health nut”, or decides to lead a generally healthy lifestyle one should never define the term “healthy” based on a perceived societal quo, but rather through the maintenance of one’s physical, but more importantly mental, well-being. Health is, therefore, a journey towards attaining a wholesome state of healthiness.
The Skinny on What It Means to be Healthy
The definition of the term “healthy” is not only variable but more complicated than physically being thin. Healthiness is not something we can define as a single physical perception. To be healthy one understand that the term is multifaceted, and understanding that although you might be that one person that fits in the size XXS but you might not be healthy. To elaborate, leading a healthy lifestyle is like a salad bowl “of physical, mental, and emotional components that make us who we are.” (Source) Yet when a prospective health enthusiast embarks on a journey to investigate their health rather than paying attention to all three components, they focus on just achieving the physical state of skinniness that seemingly represents holistic health in modern day society. If in the “who’s healthier?” debate between Person A and B, it was found that Person A was actually on the verge of anorexia due to the fact that although physically they looked healthy they were waging a losing mental battle regarding their weight within themselves. Person B, however, was found to be happy within their own skin although their body may say otherwise. I guess the question now is, can Person B be healthy?
Vanity versus Reality
“eating disorders are perceived by the general public as being self-inflicted, that these individuals should easily be able to pull themselves together and that they have only themselves to blame for their illness.”
Are you familiar with the story, “The Boy Who Cried ‘Wolf’”? If not, to summarize, a boy foolishly “calls wolf” to gain the attention of the townsfolk by scaring them that a wolf is about to attack, and after a few repetitions of these lies, the townspeople decide not to respond when he calls wolf when there really is a wolf. In case you were guessing, the boy dies in the end. I know, charming. But the reason I am telling you this tale is that when we discuss the meaning of what is true means to be healthy we cannot avoid the discussion about the stigma that circulates this definition, especially when this prejudice is directed to those such as Person A. Gina Dimitropoulos; M.S.W., Ph.D., R.S.W of the National Eating Disorder Information Centre cites studies that have found that “eating disorders are perceived by the general public as being self-inflicted, that these individuals should easily be able to pull themselves together and that they have only themselves to blame for their illness.”(Source) So rather than accepting that this person is unhealthy, our society ignores the problem, insensitive to the fact that these people are not at all like the boy who called wolf when there wasn’t one.
The Man-or Woman- in the Mirror
It is at this mental checkpoint where we reach a crossroads where in the pursuit of health we actually sicken ourselves. The most important paradigm shift we can make is “When we shift our thoughts, fears, worries, and insecurities about health from the exterior (how we look) to the interior (how we feel) we set ourselves up for the ultimate success in health and happiness.” (Source) Defining health is now more than just how we look, it’s how we feel when we see ourselves in the mirror. This idea is further reinforced by renowned Australian personal trainer Kayla Itsines who advocates for creating the goal of maintaining a healthy body “for me personally, healthy means feeling fit, strong and confident. It means being realistic and doing what works for you and your body, eating a balanced diet with wholesome foods and enjoying the occasional treat when you feel like it.” (Source) A balanced diet is not arduously gulping down that spinach and beet smoothie. It’s knowing that eating more veggies is better than eating a cupcake every day. But if you do eat that sweet treat, you don’t hate yourself like Person A. You move on, like Person B, knowing that that cupcake once in awhile is OK. Regardless of societal perception the feeling and inner perception to deem whether you feel healthy or not.
Cookie Cutters and Magazine Models
“It’s not what you are that holds you back, it’s what you think you are
not.” — Dennis Waitley
The catch, however, is that healthiness cannot be a cookie cutter picture, especially when you are in a country like the United States, where the problem of obesity ranks as a pretty important national issue. Unfortunately, as a country we are not dealing with this issue in a positive manner, encouraging kids to feel happy in their own bodies. Instead, children are surrounded by images of size 00 model leading to the stigma that surrounds the stereotypical unhealthiness of “fatness.” However when we create a discussion of the idea of being healthy we avoid the ultimate game changer that even though you might have some phat, you can still be healthy. Rather than encourage a more accepting society we label fatness, as a disease in which excess body weight is seen as a sign of unhealthiness. However, according to a WebMD article that debates whether you could be Fit and Fat (Source), you can absolutely fill out a bit and still be considered healthy. “People who are overweight can be considered healthy if their waist size is less than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men, and if they do not have two or more of the following conditions:” (Source) To put this in an ease of perception, this essentially can mean, you don’t have to look like a Victoria’s Secret model. The key here is that you can still be healthy.This breaks the typical stigma of having a figure where your bones don’t show through your skin indicates that you are not healthy. This ignorant avoidance of this layer of “healthiness” is what accentuates the lackluster understanding of what it truly means to be healthy. Your fat they say. You need to lose inches they chime. As a child, I always struggled with maintaining a thin figure. Despite my parents’ reassurances that I was fine, I remember how I envied the actors and actresses I used to watch on the TV. I was never told that I was healthy. Standing in front of the mirror, it never occurred to me that, health may not always mean a skinny and fit bod. For example, “Many overweight and obese Americans might be perfectly healthy when it comes to blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels — while many thin folks may not be the picture of good health, a new study contends.” (Source) To go back to the previous example, Person B seems a lot more healthier than person A. If one were to wholeheartedly investigate the realities of the definition of healthy, it can be identified that the fact of the matter is that the stereotypes that link obesity and health overpower the truth that healthiness is a relative condition.
Health and Wealth — are they the same?
As the old adage goes, health is wealth. Yet, this wealth is a 7-layer guacamole dip of a mix of factors, that without truly taking every layer into account, one cannot be healthy. It is crucial to understand that to define the meaning of this word, one takes into account that healthiness is not being a “perfect” version of yourself it is being the BEST version of yourself. Healthiness is a journey towards attaining a lifestyle where you feel happy about yourself, regardless of what society deems you should look like. After all, you don’t want to be too health conscious. As Mark Twain states, “Be careful about reading health books, you may die of a misprint.”