When did healthy become an exclusive club??? There is so much messaging around what you need to do in order to be healthy. You need to take this supplement and work out daily. Buy all organic produce and never eat processed foods. Drink green smoothies and avoid all gluten. Well, here’s my take on all that: Healthy does not have a one-size-fits-all definition. Health looks different for everyone. The message that I want to be heard loud and clear is this: you have permission to be a healthy, happy person without being “healthy” at all times.
As someone with degrees in Nutritional Sciences and Nursing, you may think I would have strong opinions on what healthy actually means. That there is one true definition of health. But healthy for me is different from healthy for you.
And my honest opinion is that the medical community often does a poor job of teaching the public that health is much more than our physical bodies. But it’s not just the medical community – it’s media too.
However, we 100% have a choice in what we consume on social media. And if you’re only paying attention to women who are a size zero, eat acai bowls every other day, and seem to always appear healthy, happy, and perfect, guess what. You are going to believe that is the definition of health. I know, because I fell into this trap.
So I want to get real into it because this is a topic I. am. fired. up. about. Let’s talk about why we don’t have to be “healthy” all the time in order to truly be healthy, happy people.
Health is More Than Our Physical Bodies
Health is mental, emotional, social, and spiritual just as much as it is physical. You could have the most perfect body on the planet, but if you don’t have your mental health what the heck is the point?
I’m so glad mental health is a topic that is rising to the surface more in recent years, but it doesn’t stop there. Health is relationships. Going outside and breathing in fresh air. Allowing yourself to feel a full spectrum of emotions. Eating foods that aren’t just nutritious, but have cultural significance and deep meaning in your life. Getting quiet to check in with yourself and tap into what truly matters to you. Health is so much more than nutrition and fitness.
I am learning more and more each day that how many calories I eat or how many pounds I lift at the gym do. not. matter if I’m neglecting other parts of myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love nutrition + fitness, and I believe they are essential to overall health. But over time, my perspective on health has expanded beyond those two areas.
Going for a walk outside to feel the sun on my skin, listen to the birds, and clear my mind is just more important sometimes than “getting a good workout in”.
Eating what I want at a restaurant and enjoying my time with family and friends is more important than stressing over getting the “healthy option” and obsessing about the calories.
I learned that health is more than my physical body and it has opened up my world.
Yes, I know that processed, packaged foods are not as good for my physical health as whole foods and fresh produce. But sometimes I’m going to eat processed foods.
You know why? Because doing so is BETTER for the rest of my health than the alternative. For me, the alternative is fearing processed food. It’s thinking about how I just want to eat the dang frozen pizza because I’m exhausted from a long day at work. Or fixating on whether or not I should eat the cookies my friends brought to my house instead of simply enjoying their company.
It’s just not worth it to create these destructive rules in our life all in the name of “health”.
The Word Healthy Does Not Have Just One Meaning
The scientific community is not in agreement on what healthy means. One year, carbs are bad. The next year, fat is bad. One physician recommends the carnivore diet. Another recommends a plant-based diet.
Do your own research. Listen to your own body. Figure out what healthy means for YOU.
If that instagrammer I mentioned earlier (who eats acai bowls and posts pictures in her size xs swimsuit every day) is truly happy, seriously good for her. There is nothing wrong with having a small frame and eating nutritious food. What I have a problem with, is you following that person and other people very similar to that person and believing that right there is health. That’s it! She looks healthy and happy. Therefore, that must be how I get healthy and happy too.
Nope!!! That lifestyle might be healthy for someone else, but it’s probably not exactly what’s healthy for you. If I could have shook my younger self and told her this I would have, so that’s why I’m a lil fiery about this.
Shopping at Whole Foods is Not Your Ticket to Health
I like Whole Foods, y’all. I would probably shop there more if a store was closer to where I live. But I shop at Aldi instead. You know why? Because they have grrreat prices and they are perfect for where my husband and I are at in our lives right now. They’ve got what we need, and they’re what we can afford.
Let me illustrate my point another way. You do not need coconut water, cauliflower pizza crust, and the latest $20 tiny jar of nut butter in order to be healthy. The messaging surrounding this is out of control. We allow social media to make us think we need these things. I allowed social media to make me believe these lies. And it’s no one’s fault – we just all have to do our part to filter out what is and isn’t right for us.
You do not need to follow every health trend in order to be healthy. Trends usually = $$$. Find what’s worth the money to you and ignore the rest.
You have permission to be a healthy, happy person without eating popular health foods.
You Get to Define What Healthy Means For You
It has been so freeing to shed these old definitions of healthy. To get rid of the narratives that weren’t serving me at all. I love nutrition and fitness, but they are just two parts of my whole self.
So here are some questions to ask yourself when starting to discover what healthy means for you:
- Does anyone I follow on social media cause me to feel guilty or like I “should” be eating/exercising/etc. in a certain way that is no longer serving me?
- Example: I try to follow people who provide actual workout ideas, rather than people who mostly post pictures of their bodies without any workout tips. I also follow a wider variety of food accounts with everything from decadent brownies to veggie-packed salads.
- Am I restricting certain foods from my diet that I love? If so, how can I get more comfortable including those foods in my diet without fearing becoming “unhealthy”?
- Example: I used to avoid all white sauce on pasta because I know that it generally has more calories and fat than red sauce. I started making a homemade cream sauce, and just the fact that I’m making it myself rather than buying it in a jar is helping me overcome my fears surrounding a higher-calorie foods.
- What narratives have I created around food and exercise that are decreasing my happiness?
- Example: I believed that I need to do an intense cardio/weight lifting workout a specific number of times per week. I felt guilty when I missed a workout. Now, I allow myself to have different seasons of movement. I experience phases when I love going to the gym 4x per week and other phases when I enjoy walks outside instead.
- What aspects of my health aren’t receiving as much attention as my physical body? How can I focus on those areas?
- Example: For a long time, I would primarily work out for the physical health benefits. Now, I allow myself to engage in movement for my mental health, and I’m so. much. happier. If I need alone time in nature, going to a crowded gym is not going to make me feel good. If I want to feel grounded, I go to a hot yoga class instead of doing an intense weight lifting workout.
These questions are just ideas to get you thinking about the whole picture. Maybe there are parts of you that aren’t getting the love and attention they need in order for you to become your most vibrant, fulfilled self.
Our health is so complex. And how we define the word healthy is deeply personal. So I hope you believe me when I say that you have permission to get rid of any destructive definitions of healthy that may be preventing you from true happiness and true health.
If you have your own mantra surrounding health or your own definition of healthy, I’d love to hear it! Drop a note below – I think it would be so beautiful for this to be a place where people share their perspectives and expanded views on what healthy means.
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