The World Health Organization defines health as a state of physical, mental, and social well-being, and not just the absence of disease or illness. (Official records of the World Health Organization, No. 2, p. 100). In other words, being healthy goes beyond being physically active, not suffering from chronic diseases, or eating “well”.
By the way, what do we mean by eating "well”? I think most would define it as a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, with a minimum consumption of salt, sugar, and fat. However, eating “well” doesn’t imply restricting, since severe restriction can lead to emotional disturbances and even eating disorders.
What’s the use of limiting our diet if this will generate a certain type of tension that we’ll release through binge eating? With so much information nowadays about fitness and diets, I think that balance is the key and the most recommended thing to do is eating consciously, listening to what our body needs and being really present in that moment; that’s why it’s not suggested to eat watching TV or a movie, reading, or using the phone.
That said, I can be a person with a “healthy” diet, that stays physically active, but in reality I do it to avoid getting fat because I’m afraid of being overweight. Do you think I’m healthy? Well done those who think I’m not, for as we read earlier, health is defined by an overall well-being. In this case, the emotional health (which is part of mental health, which is part of general health) is being neglected. Watch out, I don’t want to be misunderstood, it’s okay to take care of yourself and keep in shape if you’re enjoying it and it makes you feel good. When I stop exercising for the pleasure it gives me and more to “burn” what I’ve eaten, we may be facing a problem. Likewise if I restrict my diet all week just to binge eat cakes and chips on the weekend, as these episodes usually generate a lot of guilt, remorse and insecurity with ourselves.
The third part of the definition is the social aspect. Let’s say I’m a slim person and physically I look great, but I constantly suffer from headaches and back pain. Also, every time I upload something to Instagram I keep track of how many likes I’ve been given or who has seen it, seeking other’s approval. I hope at this point we can determine that this person is not really heathy even if he looks “good”. If I don’t feel full with myself, I’ll go looking for that fullness in others, and upon realizing those others aren’t always available (since they don’t have to be) I feel bad. Also, the headaches and back pain can have a psychological cause since mind and body are intertwined. If we don’t pay attention to our emotions, the body will express them.
In general, it’s about seeing health on a greyscale rather than black and white, it’s not something I have or don’t have; I always have it, but I can take care of it or neglect it depending on my daily effort and dedication, and it’s normal to have ups and downs. I’ve seen people suffering from chronic diseases with healthier lifestyles than others physically healthy but emotionally unstable. In short, all areas are intertwined as in a system, so instead of focusing on one or the other, we must ensure that they’re all balanced.
Those of us who have plants know that if we don’t take proper care of them they perish…the same thing happens with our health. Furthermore, the main cause of plant death are the excesses, specifically excessive watering. This only comes to show us the risks of some excesses: excessive exercising, excessive rigidity in eating, little flexibility of thought, emotional repression, or excessively seeking the attention or approval of others.
So, am I a healthy person? It’s something that only oneself can determine. I’ve come up with the following list that can guide us a little.
How am I physically? How is my muscle tone and flexibility? How are my joints? Do I constantly suffer from physical problems? Do I have a chronic illness? Do I trouble sleeping?
How is my diet? Do I enjoy eating? Do I spend time looking for new diets? Do I restrict myself from eating certain foods? And if I get to eat it, do I feel bad afterwards?
Am I aware of myself? Do I really know myself? Can I list my likes, dislikes, weaknesses and strengths? How do I feel about it? Do I accept myself as I am? When I look in the mirror, do I like what I see?
Do I recognize my emotions? Can I identify its causes? Can I manage them appropriately? (Watch out, this does not mean ignoring or repressing them)
How are my interpersonal relationships? Do I have a social support? Do I seek unceasing approval from others? Do I feel bad when they don't answer or validate me?
This checklist isn’t complete. What else can we add? I would love to read your thoughts.
P.S. Some of these answers may worry you, but remember that health is an overall well-being. We may suffer some emotional, physical or social affliction but if we focus on working on it, we can be considered healthy.
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