What is “health” anyway?
What comes to mind when you hear the word “health”?
For a long time, when I heard that word, I thought of green smoothies, running on the beach with a glistening tan, and being fit enough to wear a sports bra and booty shorts to work out.
To me these were all synonymous with “health”.
My view of health has since changed drastically. Today I’ll be writing about the definitions of health and how to find what “healthy” means for you.
According to Oxford dictionary the definition of health is simply
The state of being free from illness or injury
Is it just me, or is this definition is missing something? Being healthy can’t just mean not being sick? Can it?
Luckily in 1948 the World Health Organization thought the same thing about the definition of health, and created a new one. It goes like this,
Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity
I like comparing the two because while they both attempt to define health, they both have very different messages.
On the one hand, if you’re not sick, you must be healthy! Right?
On the other hand, health is more than just physical. There are mental and social aspects to take into account as well. The picture of health is expanded and is more holistic.
Now, this is tricky territory we’re entering here.
I firmly believe that health is different for everyone, and what might work for me might not work for the person sitting next to me.
Most times we will reach for a health magazine, diet book, or Google to find the health answers we’re looking for. And if you haven’t already guessed it, those magazines, diet books, and blog articles aren’t specialized to you and your needs.
Not to mention that the majority of what we see in the media depicts health simply as having the perfect body, not living a full, balanced life.
Striking a balance between physical, mental, and emotional well-being is hard to do. VERY hard to do. But I’m here to tell you that it’s not impossible.
Physical health effects emotional and mental health.
Mental and emotional health can also have physical effects, it’s all connected.
So where do we start?
Start by answering the question “what does it mean for me to be healthy?”.
For me, health includes being in tune with my body’s needs for nutritious food, daily exercise, and appropriate rest. It also involves making time to connect with family and friends, and creative outlets like writing, reading, and music.
For some of my clients, health is being able to play with their kids and not feel like they need two days to recover, or waking up feeling rested (which is something not many people get as often as they should!).
The great thing about this whole health question is that you are the one who gets to choose.
This may not be obvious to everyone, but the one person that has the biggest influence on your health is you.
Not your spouse, not your trainer, not your life coach. YOU.
Until you have a clear idea of what your whole picture of health is, including what your mental health, emotional health, and physical health, look like at their best, you’ll be flying blind.
Taking the time to get back in touch with your body and its needs is extremely important.
Most times we don’t even know what it’s like to be hungry because we’re constantly eating for reasons that aren’t physical.
For example, if I eat when I’m bored but I’m not really hungry, I’m now associating a behaviour (eating) with a feeling (boredom) and therefore every time I have a certain feeling I’ll exhibit the same behaviour. This is not being in tune with your body. There are certain physical reactions that happen in your body when you’re hungry. If these are ignored or misread, the body becomes out of balance.
I don’t know about you but I’m not usually the happiest person when I’m emotionally eating, not working out, or making myself feel bad for my food and lifestyle choices.
The best way I’ve found to overcome this feeling is by asking questions and really getting to the core of where my actions are coming from.
Am I hungry? Am I bored? Am I sad? Am I happy? Am I nervous?
You don’t know unless you ask. The key to this is to know that whatever the answer is, don’t make yourself wrong for it.
So you’re sad and you’re eating ice cream. Ok, that happened.
Are you happy about it? No.
Does it get you closer to where you want to be with your physical goals? No.
Are you enjoying the experience of it because the ice cream is so good it’s life changing? Most likely not.
In this case, you can see that the next step would be to address the cause of the sadness head on, not to search for it at the bottom of the Ben and Jerry’s tub.
On the flip side, you’re out with the girls having a great time at a fancy new restaurant in the city.
The food was amazing and now it’s time for dessert! You indulge with some ice cream because, well, it’s your favourite!
This is an experience, not just a meal.
This is an example of where ice cream can enrich your life instead of being a Band-Aid fix for something else.
Long story short, you are in the driver’s seat. You get to choose what’s healthy for you and what isn’t.
Luckily you’re equipped with a body that already knows what it needs and has more than enough ways to tell you. The trick is to learn to listen to it, and give it what it needs to thrive!