What is “healthy”?
“You are so skinny”, “My, you’ve put on some weight”, “Have you lost weight?”, “You look great”, “Have you been working out?”, “How are you feeling?” Come on, we’ve all heard at least one of these comments/questions in our lifetime, probably even today. Some require comment or reflection, others can invoke a feeling of pride or self-deprecation. No matter which it is, hopefully, by the end of this blog, you will have a better understanding of healthy and its many faceted meanings.
Webster’s Dictionary (because this is what I have used all my life) cites healthy as this:
1. free from disease or pain : enjoying health and vigor of body, mind, or spirit : well
- healthy children or tips for staying healthy
2. showing physical, mental, or emotional well-being : evincing health
- a healthy complexion
- has a healthy appetite
3. beneficial to one’s physical, mental, or emotional state : conducive to health
- healthy foods
- a healthy lifestyle
- a healthy sum of money
So let’s take a look at each entry, shall we?
Number one: free from disease or pain. Raise your hand, if you can think of someone who can claim this. Yeah, didn’t think I would see many hands raised on this one. With autoimmune disorders, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, thyroid disorders, arthritis and psychological issues, just to name a few, we are hard-pressed to find someone who is disease or pain-free, unless they are an infant or child who has not been touched by a hereditary condition or injury.
Number two: showing physical, mental, or emotional well-being. How many of you look the picture of health, but know if that picture could talk, it would say, “do not to judge this book by the cover”? In my career as a nurse, I have seen and cared for many outwardly appearing healthy people. But once I got a closer look, first impressions were very deceiving. Scars from past physical or emotional traumas or various health or mental disorders plagued each and every outwardly healthy appearing person. No one, including myself, would be considered healthy by definition #2.
Number three: beneficial to one’s physical, mental, or emotional state. Oh, here is one that classifies many of us as at least sitting in the ballpark.
- Going to the gym…can be beneficial. I say this because I know people who go to the gym to socialize, and very little exercising is done (I will be you know one or two people in your gym just like this).
- Eating fruits, vegetables, fiber, lean meats, and eating less fats and starches…supposedly beneficial depending on what dietary regimen you follow or if any disease process contraindicates the recommended daily intake.
- Talking out issues with a counselor, therapist, clergy…beneficial…but dwelling on issues, over and over again, after talking it out, is counter conducive to the benefit. At some point, we have to learn to let it go.
- Shopping as therapy…can be beneficial, but can lead to an obsession ( see definition #4).
- Taking up a hobby…beneficial, unless you allow it to consume most of your time or prevents you from socializing with others.
- Medications, vitamins, herbal supplements…although adding a chemical substance to our bodies that is not created by our bodies, typically is constituted as non-beneficial, especially in the instances of drugs, smoking and alcohol consumption, many of us need prescribed medications, vitamins, or herbal supplements to get us closer to being healthy than we are without the medications.
The list can go on and on, depending on what you believe is beneficial for your state of well-being. The trick is finding the balance between all three health planes: physical, mental and emotional, and functioning to the best of your abilities.
Number four: a. prosperous; flourishing b. not small or feeble : considerable. Well, although this takes us in a completely different direction from health, it actually ties in to how it affects our health. Let’s say we have a healthy bank account. Seeking medical attention for whatever afflicts us is usually not a problem. For what insurance doesn’t cover, we at least have the ability to cover the cost. However, if we have an unhealthy bank account (especially if depleted by shopping therapy), many of our ailments escalate. We worry when we don’t have money. Worry can bring on stress; stress can bring on a variety of other ailments from daily sickness or queasiness, to ulcers, heart problems, depression, frustration, hopelessness. You get the picture.
To sum it up, in today’s world, healthy is a term generally used to describe a mind and body that is in top notch condition. But outside or environmental influences and genetics affect the very definition of what we call healthy. So, yes, some of us may be physically fit, some of us carry more weight than we should for our framework, and some of us would just like to clear the cobwebs or still the voices inside our heads. We all have our own ideals of what is healthy and what takes to get each of us there. Sometimes the road to a healthier life is rocky, curvy, or there is a sign saying “bridge is out”, and getting to where we want to go can seem unreachable.
Love yourself where you are right now, for by definition #1, many of us fall short of healthy and the last thing you need to do is beat yourself up over it. Aim for improving your health and never give up on a path that leads to better health. And remember to reach out to a provider, practitioner, trainer, dietician, or therapist, if you need guidance in developing a plan to get you to a healthier lifestyle.
Peace and joy until next time when the topic will be “Your Crowning Glory…or Lack Thereof”.