What does the word healthy mean? Merriam-Webster defines healthy as: Enjoying good health, beneficial to one’s physical, mental, or emotional state, or showing physical, mental, or emotional well-being.
Health is defined as: the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit, or a condition in which someone or something is thriving or doing well.
Seems pretty innocuous right? Why would someone hate these words? Well gather round and I’ll break it down.
When you imagine a healthy person, who do you see? Probably someone who has a fit body, lots of energy, and a happy disposition. The whole package. Now think of how many people you can name who fit those parameters? Any coming to mind?
Outside of social media influencers, you probably can’t think of anyone who fits that bill. And as we all know well; social media doesn’t show the whole picture. Posts on social media usually only show your best picture, not your struggles or shortcomings.
If we’re hiding reality from our social media, we aren’t giving the full picture. There’s nothing wrong with only wanting to post your best angle, and it’s fine to only post the positives. We just need to keep in mind that it’s not the whole story.
Who is healthy?
Society puts an emphasis on health because that’s what we all strive to be, “healthy”. It defines your worth and place in life. Billboards and magazines feature skinny people as if that’s the average person.
In fact, the average size of an American woman is somewhere between a 16-20. The average size of an American man was harder to pin down, but most sites said a 40” waist was common. Now how often do you see that size of people in advertisements?
There’s been a recent push to display different size bodies, which is amazing. Even with this push most clothing brands still max out at a size 16 or 18, though. You see even less representation for plus size men.
If we’re only seeing thin, “healthy” bodies, our definition of “normal” is skewed. Bodies of all sizes can be healthy, but plus sized bodies are not represented enough to make them normal.
I keep saying “society”, who is society? Everyone around us; friends, family, strangers. They all judge to come level. Sometimes it’s just getting a few side eye’s when walking down the street. Maybe a few comments on social media, some family gossiping.
Sometimes it’s more sinister. The United States has a law in place that allows employers to pay a “subminimum” wage to people who are disabled or handicapped in some way. This lesser wage enforces the idea that disabled people are less productive and less valuable. And that’s just not right.
That’s just one example of how “unhealthy” people are judged to another standard.
There’s no rule saying you must tick all the boxes (physical, mental, and emotional) to be considered healthy. It’s not a report card. The problem is that once you don’t make the grade in one area, you’re falling behind and people’s opinions of you can change.
We’ve talked a lot about size and appearances, but what about the things you can’t see?
Some people will always be “unhealthy”. 6 out of 10 American adults suffer from a chronic disease. That’s the majority of us! 4 out of 10 adults have 2 or more diseases.
These chronic diseases can make it hard to maintain a lifestyle that would be classified as healthy. Let’s focus on chronic pain for a bit. Chronic pain makes it hard to exercise, eat right, and it saps you of your energy.
When you have a bad pain day you might not be able to get out of bed. Going to the grocery store is a struggle, so you can’t stock your pantry with food. Even if you had the food you don’t have the strength to cook it. That makes you more likely to buy fast food or order out. And forget about exercise.
If you’re depressed or struggling mentally, you’ll likely meet the same obstacles to get “healthy”.
With all of these conditions you’ll often be met with unsolicited advice. “Exercise can help lift your mood.” “You are what you eat, so you need to eat right.” Or my favorite, “I have an essential oil that can help.” People mean well, but unless someone asks for advice, don’t give it.
Other Roadblocks to “Healthy”
Without a chronic disease you can still struggle. Diet and exercise are a large part of how we judge health. If you’re eating whole foods and working out 3 times a week, you’re at least working towards being healthy. For some people that’s impossible.
Eating right costs time and money. A salad on the menu costs considerably more than french fries. The solution would be to just buy healthier foods, right? That’s a roadblock in and of itself. If you shop right you might be able to match the cost of a prepackage meal, but then you’ll have food that expires and needs to be cooked on a timeline. Cooking means you have to have the time and energy to prepare the food.
Someone who works a full-time job might be too exhausted to do more than microwave a meal. Someone on a lower income probably can’t buy the fresh produce in the first place.
So, exercise then? Most sources suggest exercising for 30 minutes, but what if you don’t even have that time? Exercising can also require equipment and space to do so, or you’ll have to search for resources to show you how to work out.
Only Judy Can Judge Me
Health might look different on everyone, but from the outside can you even tell? We definitely try to, by judging others for outward appearances.
A person with chronic pain can look completely “healthy” even when that might be far from the truth. A person with an eating disorder might look great, but you can’t tell their struggles from the outside. A depressed person can smile and put up a front, but is that a true picture of how they feel?
Conversely, someone who looks overweight can be a marathon runner and “healthy”, even if society would say otherwise. A disabled or chronically ill person can be just as “healthy” as someone who doesn’t have the same struggles.
So, if you can’t tell by looking, should you really be judging?
It’s none of your business how someone else choses (or is forced) to live their life. Nobody is required to disclose their “health” to anyone unless they want to. We need to stop making assumptions based on looks.
The only people who need to know should be you and your doctor. You aren’t owed any more information than the person is willing to share.
What about “health”? At the top of the post I defined “health” as: the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit, or a condition in which someone or something is thriving or doing well.
So, what does it mean if you’re not thriving? What if you’re not doing well?
I don’t know about you, but there are definitely days (many, many days) in which I’m just holding on to the wave. I have fewer thriving days than other days, but in my opinion that’s normal.
It’s okay to just be okay. You aren’t less than for just riding along. Your worth isn’t defined by your health. We constantly beat ourselves up over the areas that we slack off, and that’s not okay. We need to get to a point of loving ourselves for our accomplishments, not our shortcomings.
Loving your body, no matter the state it’s in is an act of self-care. Acknowledging that you won’t always be perfect, with it, or completely “healthy” is to be expected.