How can something as complex as health be defined? Certainly not by assessing someone’s weight, diet choices, or exercise levels.
I will explore the true meaning of health, in today’s blog post.
What does it mean to be healthy?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, to be ‘healthy’ means ‘to be in a good physical and mental condition.’ Why then, is our perception of ‘health’ and what it means to live a ‘healthy lifestyle’, so far removed from its actually meaning?
We unfortunately live in a society caught up in diet culture, a society that can very much be described as being ‘fatphobic.’ People presenting themselves in a body size which is larger than the ‘ideal’ are subject to, what is extremelly uncalled for, discrimination. This causes people to attach labels to each other based on how much they weigh. People are determined as being healthy or unhealthy based on their relationship with gravity. Surely you can already see why this is such an unreliable measurement?!
To highlight just how much we stereotype people in line with their weight, I want you to ask yourself this: if you were presented with person A, someone in a smaller body eating a bowl of salad, and person B, someone in a larger body eating a doghnut, who would you perceive to be healthier? I can confidently guess that the majority of you said that person A would, unquestionably, be the healthiest. What if I then went on to tell you that person A had been living with an eating disorder for most of their life, and that salad is the only food they allow themselves to eat, and that person B is enjoying a doughnut after their third gym session of the week? Would you still perceive the smaller person to be healthier? Probably not. My point being: we cannot judge a person’s health on their external appearance, though, as is the case with most things, this is often easier said than done. Unlearning a narrative we have been told for most, if not all, of our lives, takes a great deal of time. It requires us to challenge the subsconscious part of our brain that associates health with a particular size.
My complicated relationship with health:
I am only now realising that in my own quest to be healthy, I was actually becoming increasingly unhealthy. My obsession with eating ‘clean’ and exercising to an excess left me feeling pre-occupied with food everyday, just one of many consequences of what quickly spiralled into Orthorexia, a debilitating eating disorder I suffered with for over 3 years before embarking on recovery.
When I was in what was undoubtebly the unhealthiest period of my life, I indisputebly fit the stereotype of optimum health, with my toned stomach being labelled as ‘#fitnessgoals.’ The issue with this was that no one could see what was really going on behind the ‘inspring’ Instagram posts. My bones were becoming weaker by the day, my heart rate was dropping dangerously low and, perhaps most notably, my mental state was rapidly depleting.
As someone who is now, thankfully, in eating disorder recovery, I have to get up every single day and redefine what I have believed to be ‘healthy’ for so long. Because, the fact is, health is not running half marathons on an empty stomach, and nor is it cutting all fat and sugar from ones diet.
Health is feeling good.
Health is knowing that I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want it, for food is neither good or bad, it is just food.
Looking to the future:
As I make progress in my recovery, I am starting to realise that exercising doesn’t make me a superior human being, and not exercising doesn’t make me lazy. Exercise is a choice, and when doing it from a place of real health, it should be done in a way that feels enjoyable for an intensity that feels right for that particular day. Having a day off when I feel tired, or when I’m just ‘not in the mood’ for it, is healthy. Likewise, eating chocolate because I’ve been craving it all day is healthy. What’s not healthy, however, is sticking to an extremely regimented exercise schedule, whereby ‘off days’ are not so much as considered. Furthermore, denying myself of the food that I love is certainly not a sign of health, but a sign of serious ill health.
So, when will I achieve true health?
True health will be achieved when, not if, I free myself from my eating disorder, and I cannot wait to finally get there, to get to a state of true health.. a state of true happiness, brought on by food and exercise freedom.
It is so close I can almost feel it x