Recently, I’ve seen a rise in Odyssey articles about health, fitness, weight loss and clean eating. These pieces seem to fare particularly well in a society that thrives on diet culture, comparison and appearance as a determinant of self-worth.
While being "healthy" is essential to leading a fulfilling lifestyle, it is important to consider that the term may mean different things to different people. Messages in the media make health out to be this grand destination, filled with "clean eating," a lean figure, and inevitably, a positive self-image. The thing is, health is such a relative term. What is healthy for one person may be destructive to another.
According to Merriam-Webster, "health" is defined as "the condition of being sound in the body, mind, or spirit." Not once does the dictionary reference clean eating, dieting, maintaining a certain weight or behaving in a particular way to validate this so-called state of well-being. This is not to say that some of the habits practiced by fitness bloggers or trends discussed in the media can be beneficial to one's overall health, but rather to acknowledge that health is more than a physical condition.
Yes, there is a such thing as a "healthy" weight, there are choices that can be made to pursue a "healthier" lifestyle and regular physical activity has been known to bring cardiovascular benefits, bone strength, psychological stability and a decreased risk for certain cancers, but there is a line between doing what is in your best interest and caving into the pressures of diet culture.
One of the most often neglected aspects of health is the beauty of moderation. Some of the healthiest people I know are not those on low-carb diets or weight loss kicks, but rather people who accept that it doesn't have to be all or nothing - health can come in shades of grey. To me, it means listening to what my body wants and needs and figuring out how to meet those needs in an appropriate way.
If I'm craving a cookie, I eat a cookie. If I feel like I want to move, I take a walk. If I'm stressed or overwhelmed, I take some time to myself to journal. I have developed trust in my body's ability to let me know what I need and keep me at a weight that best serves the lifestyle I lead.
I am anti-diet and a strong believer that that health has nothing to do with size. Health comes from being at peace with yourself and in touch with your mind, body and spirit. It is the vaguest of terms and the most relative to individual needs.
Unless a medical professional tells me otherwise, I intend to continue meeting my needs this way. I respect and honor that my journey to health may be different than someone else's, and that is okay. If we could stop pretending that health is one-size-fits-all and respect that there is more than one way to be healthy, diet culture and body shaming would lose some of their traction. What a radical idea it would be to promote self-acceptance and care instead of preaching about a need to change?