Health, nutrition, clean living, sustainability- all buzz words we’re bombarded with on the regular that evoke a variety of feelings and thoughts. To name a few, at various times I have felt curious, excited, and annoyed by that set of vocabulary words. I consider myself a questioner and a learner (and so does Gretchen Rubin). I have developed a great deal of curiosity over the past few years about what it means to be “healthy.”
I have found myself questioning my doctor’s recommendations, reading every food label at the grocery store, and diving head first into as many venues to learn about health as possible (yes, Instagram is a venue).
Through my research and my own personal experience, I have found a way to eat and live that makes me feel my best. Do I always eat those things? Nope. Life happens. Somedays I eat green salad with grilled chicken and avocado, and sometimes I find myself elbow deep in a slice (ok, two) and a beer. Sometimes I even indulge in things that I know will make me feel shitty later, but that is the way the gluten-free cookie crumbles sometimes. If you find yourself following a blog or someone on social media that claims they never ever eat or drink anything less than insanely nutritious, they are probably lying. Even if they’re not, if comparing yourself to those people makes you feel bad about yourself, bye Felicia!
I’ve discovered that there are a plethora of rumors out there that can lead us down the wrong paths. Big huge corporations put out research and ideas that are unfounded or founded in a way that is sketchy at best. The original “fake news” if you will.
There is one myth out there that we cannot escape. We hear this on TV, in social media, and even from our doctors. I’ve truly believed this myth in the depth of my soul for decades because it has been shoved down my throat, especially as a woman. I’m going to take a shot at addressing that myth. Keep in mind however, I did not go to medical school and I have not conducted any formal research. I am however a curious little bugger with an insatiable need to understand the ins and outs of these myths and how they come to be.
“Health and weight are the same thing” -Jerks
False. The end. Kind of. I have spent a lot of years thinking if I could just be skinny I’d be healthy. Turns out that is not how it works. Yes, it is important to maintain a weight that is idea for your age, gender, and body type. Yes, it is important to fuel your body with foods that do not contribute to weight-related illness. Ah! But here comes the kicker! Who the hell decides what this magical number is? For many years, we believed the BMI chart was the end-all-be-all for healthy weight guidelines. We’ve learned now that it is more complicated than a colorful chart that tells you that you should weigh just slightly more than your birth weight. While the BMI chart does provide a framework, it fails to consider body composition, muscle mass, bone density, genetics, and many other factors.
Finding the ideal weight can be a moving target. There are several ways to determine whether or not the number on the scale is a good one, but don’t forget that is just one data point in a sea of information. Other variables of health include your numbers you can get from a simple blood draw- cholesterol, A1C, blood sugar, nutrient content, and hormonal levels to name a few.
Also, let’s not forget the one factor that is often overlooked by health professionals. How do you feel?
Can your body do everything you want it to like climb 4 sets of stairs, carry all your groceries inside in one trip (the most satisfying thing ever, no?), and chase your 19 month old nephew at the park? If your body can do the things you want it to, even if your weight is higher or lower than an outdated chart suggests, you may be some version of “healthy.” You’re welcome.
For the past several years, I’ve been the girl in the lunchroom that eats a green salad with lean protein and a healthy fat. Up until recently, I skipped the dose of fat because I believed eating fatty foods like nuts and avocado would cause weight gain. That could not be farther from the truth, but how are we to know this unless the research becomes mainstream information?! (See: Frugally Rooted’s mission)
My colleagues are mostly female and mostly between the ages of 25 and 40. It’s almost like I have a mini study group every day. When you look around the room, you can find almost any diet represented; the paleo followers, the shake-drinkers, the ketogenic folk, the white bread and potato chip eaters, the “I didn’t have time to make anything or eat anything” group, and the calorie counters. Ask anyone of these people if they’re in shape and they are likely to say no. Ask any one of them if they like the number on the scale and you’ll also mostly get no’s. Can this be true? Or is this the result of the information we’ve been fed (pun intended) for our whole lives?
Maybe if we changed the questions to “are you healthy? Do you drink enough water? Do you get some healthy movement in each week?” we’d get different answers.
The bottom line is, there is no right answer. It’s not black and white. You cannot simply be healthy or be unhealthy. Health can take a variety of forms and can leave most of us scratching our heads. Think about your own health? Have you set and reached any health goals? Do you consider yourself capable of all of the physical tasks you assign yourself? Do you fuel your body with foods that contribute to your overall health? Maybe they key to all of this is to start listening to ourselves and stop looking around the lunchroom to compare ourselves, stop listening to the mailer from your health insurance that recommends eating canola oil as a healthy fat (eye roll. More on that later, too), and stop looking at #beachbod on social media to tell us what health looks, feels, and sounds like.