We need to let go of the “proper nutrition” and “perfect body” ideals. We saturate our minds with fear mongering articles & documentaries that lead us to eliminate x, y, z from our nutritional intakes. We demonize foods/chemicals/ingredients and pass judgment on those still consuming them. We place our hope for a “healthier,” skinnier, more toned body in each fad diet and exercise program that gains traction in social media, the news, & inner circles. Most concerning of all, in today’s age, we develop our “health” beliefs from unreliable sources and treat our health concerns with pseudoscience perpetuated by diet culture that is tailored to the masses, not the individual. We’ve become “health” snobs; praising the “crunchy momma” or elite athlete and condemning the mom who just put ketchup in front of her child’s french fries or the person who does cardio at the gym everyday.
What we fail to recognize while seeking the perfect diet, exercise routine, and physique is that our health is not solely defined by the food we put in our bodies, the amount of muscle vs fat mass, or the large list of chemicals we (believe) we have eliminated from entering our sacred temples. Our genetics, socioeconomic status, stress, hormones, sleep patterns, substance use, environment, and mental + social health play vital roles in our overall health and must be considered in conjunction with our nutrition choices and exercise activities. We cannot place our food intakes and physical activity in a neat box and EXPECT health. We also cannot place our food intakes and physical inactivity in a neat box and EXPECT disease. We cannot eat society’s picture of a “clean” diet daily yet live in stress, social isolation, hormonal dysregulation, deprivation and tout “health.”
The ideals of supreme health and physical appearance do not exist in black or white and they are not defined in one way. What is sustainable, joyful, balanced for one person may be stress inducing, mentally exhausting, and detrimental to health for another. Our overall health encompasses far more than simply what we put in our bodies and how we move our bodies. It is condemning and wildly inaccurate to believe that health is defined by how well you limit artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, or processed foods; avoidance of microwaves or gluten or bleach, the purchase of whole chickens versus packaged, eating only organic, following specific exercise programs, etc. Some of these are good things and we have research that leads us to consider them for our personal lives HOWEVER, we must recognize that these do not define nor promise health. They simply do not hold as much weight on disease outcome in and of themselves as the media portrays them to. Additionally, we live in a very diverse world with many people who are unsure where this week’s meals are coming from let alone whether they will be organic or not. We have people who have never even heard of (or may not like) an acai bowl yet cookie cutter nutrition plans write them into programming depicting “health.” It is irresponsible to believe that because of this, health is unobtainable for them!
We must figure out what health means for us as individuals. Finding the dietary intake and physical movement that leads you to a place of feeling well physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and financially. THAT is the ideal of health for YOU and YOUR body and it SHOULD look different from someone else’s. For me, I thrive off of challenging physical goals but I allow myself to listen to my body. Some days a walk outside or a moderate ride on the bike or elliptical cater to my emotional, physical, social, mental needs MORE than a long run or a weight lifting session. Some days a side of fries instead of veggies out a restaurant or eating birthday cake in celebration cater best to my emotional, social, physical, mental states. Sometimes they just plain meet my cravings and THAT IS OK.
Find the health that fits you. Weigh your conscience on the nutritional minutia against your QUALITY of life, not quantity, and find the balance that works for you in ALL aspects of your health.