Per Google Search:
The state of being free from illness or injury
A person’s mental or physical condition
Used to express friendly feelings towards ones companions before drinking
Per World Health Organization:
A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being beyond and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about health, and what exactly in means currently (in a popular culture sense). Questions have come to mind: what does it really mean to be healthy? How do we know when we are healthy? Do we reach an end point of healthiness that we just maintain? Is it about fitness or about more than just exercising and eating right? Is it about balance?
Reflecting my evolution in that area, I’ve been interested in health since I was about fourteen when I first started endurance running. My own personal health journey could be broken down like this (please note this breakdown is especially simplified): increase exercise start to feel good, step on scale realize body does not fit “health standard of appropriate BMI” and begin changing diet, see results, but begin to believe that BMI of 20 would be “healthier” than BMI of 24, spend youth obsessively dieting. But things go downhill and begin to realize perhaps this is not healthy anymore, change tactics, beliefs still centered around idea that health is mostly about fitness, eating well, and he body but do not use scale as measuring stick, gain a boost in health, self-confidence, self- esteem etc.. Get older, some life changes happen, leading to a return of some unhealthy thoughts and habits, light bulb moment where suddenly know that actually mental health, relationships, and everything else counts too, shift focus again….
As I grew into someone working professionally in the health field, I’ve come to realize health is a continuous journey. It isn’t about “achieving” something like an “after” photo or even about perfect lab values that then remain perfect forever. It’s about a myriad of different things, and for most of us it is constantly in flux. This was at one point hard for me (and I imagine many others) to really accept or understand; as culturally we look at health as an “end point” where we get healthy and stay healthy. But that health constantly changes, as parts of our life change and habits we created needed to change again.
I rarely meet people who are satisfied with their health, but a lot of these people I meet really should be okay with where they are. I’ve noticed that we have a hard time with the idea of satisfaction and acceptance (in this case how they relate to health). We seem to believe being satisfied with our health and accepting where we are means we will become stagnant. I don’t believe this is true, I haven’t seen it to be true. In fact when health is truly suffering there is usually no acceptance going on: no acceptance that parts of life are out of balance for us. Is being happy with where your health is at really bad? I don’t think so – but there’s enough pressure out there to make it a really hard thing to do.
In the popular culture of health I see (blogs, books, etc. etc.) health is something we consider to be an individual responsibility. Not only should you be disease free (or managing your illness or physical health or mental health) you should be striving to do it better than you do now (or perhaps your neighbour). So with the pressure to constantly improve our health, how do we accept it when life changes mean we have to take a few steps back? Suddenly we fail – and we no longer consider ourselves healthy.
I hope that many people can start to see their health as a continuous, often circular journey. Not simple a moment of achieving a certain desired health characteristic. I hope people can accept that sometimes aspects of health might not be perfect, as other areas need attention.
I still have lots more thoughts on health, but I’ll leave it there for now. I’m sure you’ll see a part two somewhere on the horizon.