Health as an enigma: why I think we all need to define what “health” is really about

My sister recently bought a house in Windsor, which is just far enough away by car to require a podcast en route. Last time I drove down, I listened to one from “Office Hours” (a favourite of my nerdy side!) where they interviewed Ellen Berrey about her book, The Enigma of Diversity: The Language of Race and the Limits of Racial Justice. I am not particularly well-versed in this area, but she did speak the language of sociology and as she talked about the way that the word “diversity is a hallowed American value, widely shared and honored,” I couldn’t help but think of my own work and the way that the concept of health has come to be taken for granted as universally worth pursuing, without critically considering even the definition of it. Her discussion about the way that the idealization of diversity can actually obscure real inequalities again got me thinking about the way that we idealize health—and particularly the appearance of it. Very rarely do we sit down and define what “healthy” really means to us.

healthy

I couldn’t help but think of some of the people I’ve met who will do extreme things in the name of health—cutting out all carbs, going on extreme diets, running themselves ragged, spending tons of money to lose weight, etc. I see it all the time in my personal life but also as a personal trainer and a professional in the world of health and fitness. Unfortunately, I often see this turn into a slippery slope. My own experience with taking the pursuit of thinness in the name of health too far and straying into disordered eating territory is just one example of the way that trying to be “healthy” can actually compromise that which we’re after in the first place.

Why is this important? In a world where we see all kinds of images offered up as “healthy” (search that hashtag on instagram, for starters), it is more important than ever to be careful not to unquestioningly assume that “health” is defined in a way that fits with us or that serves us. When I was underweight, the natural association between losing weight and getting healthy proved false—just one example of how “health” is not a one-size-fits-all concept. Consider this: with “health” held as an unquestionably worthy pursuit, the association between a thinner body and a healthier body can drive people to do things that are perhaps unhealthy (going on starvation diets, taking diet pills, etc. come to mind), albeit in the name of health. In my humble opinion, I say we get honest about it: it’s not about your health if it’s driving you insane mentally or compromising your quality of life in the process. If we talk about it as being about our health, we’re contributing to that “enigma.”

You eat whole foods and you have a happy relationship with your body, you move it in ways that feel good, but if you don’t look like the images of health offered up in the media, are you actually unhealthy? If you’re, dare I say it, “overweight” by some chart’s standards, are you shit out of luck when it comes to embodying a healthy subjectivity? I don’t think so, but I do think we need to talk about this stuff more (hence this blog). When the images we see of health are all of a narrow range of body types, and when the fitness models on the cover of fitness magazines engage in arguably unhealthy pursuits (cutting out water for photo shoots, engaging in restrictive dieting, etc.), then it’s easy to get confused—so take it easy on yourself. I don’t see the magazines and marketing gurus out there likely opening up the images of fit bodies to encompass all of those that really can be considered fit any time soon, but I do see blogs, social media, etc. as avenues for us to start to open up the definition of “health” to be more realistic and more based on what’s right for each and every one of us. I did just that on this blog not too long ago, and I have been doing my best to come back to that when I get down on myself or my body.

Cheers to blogging!

Do you consider yourself “healthy”?
Have you ever taken the time to define what “healthy” means to you?
What are the parameters you set for yourself when it comes to being “healthy”?

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Bootcamp and can I get an amen!

Tonight’s bootcamp was small. i.e. it was me and one guy who didn’t expect to get so much attention.

Seriously though, I would do this whether 1 or 100 people showed up. I decided to opt out of my planned workout and step it up a bit for this friend, who I know is in good shape and who I thought would like something a bit different than my normal routine. Plus, since there was just him, I could do something out of the ordinary so I went with it! And since I felt a little weird just playing personal trainer and full of energy myself, I did the workout with him.

Without further ado, tonight’s workout looked like this:

Warmup
With a jog to the playground looking for monkey bars.

Workout
 10, 9, 8,…,1,10 each of pull-ups, sit-ups, pushups, burpees, and squats
10 minutes of running (approximate, there’s a nice loop in Canatara)

Cooldown

This might sound familiar because it’s a take on my workout from Monday. I thoroughly enjoyed it (again) and I think I perfected the order–heart rate stays up, arms aren’t dead dead dead, and you want to quit but can make it through it. Luckily tonight it was a bit cooler in the shade and with some breeze, so the workout flew by! I’m hoping for a bigger group tomorrow, but like I said, I’ll take everything with a smile.

After bootcamp, I’ve been sitting around reading and listening to podcasts and just enjoying a low key night. I had a bowl of greek yogurt/peanut butter mix and have a happy belly, happy heart, and is it bedtime yet? 

I mostly posted because I’m I abso-freaking-lutely am having one of those “oh my gawd you took the words right out of my mouth” moments right now.

I’m listening to a Life By Design podcast from January. Go to number 29–“Turning Resolutions into Results”. These guys are speaking to everything that I’ve been realizing about focusing on the behaviours when you’re trying to get to a new goal instead of focusing on that end goal and that alone:

“It comes back to…Cause vs. effect. Your resolutions are not causes, they’re effects. You look at what you don’t like about your life, what you don’t like about yourself, you look at what you don’t like about yourself and you say, ‘I wanna change that,’ but you never actually change the behaviours that would actually lead to that.”

Whatever you’re doing, you should probably just be listening to this.

And now for my final move: the faceplant. Nighty night!