What does it mean to be healthy?
What does it mean to be healthy? Who or what is the picture of health? Are you healthy? Without a clear goal of what healthy looks like, it is very difficult to strive for it. The goal to be healthier was one of the most common New Year resolutions. But what does it mean and why are people so obsessed with it?
For most, it means dieting and exercise to get in shape.
A dictionary definition defines health as being free from illness or injury. Merriam-Webster says it is the condition of being sound in body, mind and spirit. Not much clarity there and nothing mentioned about strict diets and extra gym sessions.
Suffice to say that the topic of health is far greater than nutrition and exercise but for the sake of brevity and the purpose of this post, that is what I am focussing on. Keep in mind though, that in order to be truly healthy, we need to look at our entire lifestyle.
Motives behind the get fit revolution
The motives can be misguided:
- Adverts for health and slimming products are all over the place.
- The message from Marketing is that you need to be gorgeous, skinny and/or muscular to have a life.
- Social media depicts images of people with perfect bodies.
- We are inundated with articles in the media on why and how we should be healthy (says she, writing a post on health)
Media has a big part to play in the world’s obsession but I think in most cases though, the motives are legit:
- The medical fraternity warns us there is an increasing prevalence of obesity, cancer and auto-immune diseases.
- We hear how bad certain foods are.
- Fast food is the staple diet for many.
- Stress and pressures from work leave little time to exercise.
In a cacophony of mixed messages, who do you listen to? How much is necessary and how much is excessive? It can be difficult to find the balance which is why I always refer back to my source of solid, consistent advice, the Bible.
A biblical view of health
Interestingly, not too much is said directly about diet and exercise. 1 Timothy 4:7-9 says physical fitness has some value, but spiritual fitness is more important. And a peaceful heart leads to a healthy body. (Proverbs 14:30) In biblical times, they walked everywhere and had no need for extra activity. Today we often lead a more sedentary lifestyle which means we have to be more intentional. So don’t ditch the gym just yet.
Even food does not get that much attention. Basically, anything that comes from God (natural) is good for us as long as it is in moderation. The Bible certainly doesn’t make diet or the perfect body, a priority.
What the Bible does say, is that our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit and that we should honor God with our body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) For this reason, we need to care for our bodies and treat them with a healthy respect.
The emphasis placed on fad diets, health supplements and having an ideal body, is not God’s design for us but a marketing message that is buoying a multi-billion dollar industry. Be mindful when you set goals, that you are not chasing a marketing fantasy. (Thanks photoshop)
Effects of poor health
That being said, we do have to take care of ourselves because a poor diet and lack of activity has consequences in all areas of our lives:
- Tired and lethargic
- Reduced cognitive ability
- Difficulty coping with demands of family and children
- Medical costs
- Poor self-image
- Relationships take strain
- No energy even for the activities we enjoy
Effects of good health
- Feel more energetic
- More productive in general
- Often have greater success
- Cope better with life’s demands
- Better relationships
- Stronger immunity means you are sick less often
- Confidence is improved
- Mentally alert
A personal cost
In 1995 I was diagnosed with a serious form of Rheumatoid Arthritis. In an attempt to have the ‘perfect body’, I had subjected it to excessive dieting and exercise on top of a prolonged period of emotional stress. Overnight I went from fanatical gym bunny to invalid. Admittedly this was an extreme case, but nevertheless, it gave me a wake-up call. The plus side was that I became acutely aware of the devastating effects of incorrect diet and physical abuse on the body.
Since then I have resolved to intentionally live as healthy a lifestyle as possible. Granted, for me, it is easier because I have had a harsh reality check. I don’t always get it right but I live with awareness, purpose and intention as much as possible.
Through the RA, I have learned to tell what is and isn’t healthy and together with my medical background, this has formed the basis for what I choose to read and believe.
Taking care of ourselves is more than vanity. It is essential to our well-being. We owe it to ourselves and to God, to take care of the precious gift He has given us. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I can talk from personal experience when I say, look after your health, we are not invincible.
Bad habits are the root of poor health
There was a time when I would grab a chocolate while standing in the queue to buy my groceries. I was a retailers dream. If I had junk food in the house, it was so much easier to grab a snack, than put together a healthy meal. Some bad habits are entrenched in our minds from an early age but just as we have learned these habits, so we can unlearn them.
You will often hear me talk about NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and our neural pathways. It is how we are wired to think and I believe it’s important for us to understand where there are bad habits we need to change. We can take our thoughts captive to overpower toxic thinking. The best person to explain this is Dr Caroline Leaf. She has done extensive research and has years of experience in the field. I highly recommend her book: Think and Eat Yourself Smart. Visit her website at www.drleaf.com or search for her on TED. She has done some amazing talks. By the way, this is not an affiliate link, I just have high regard for her work.
Some hacks to a healthier lifestyle
Read up on the benefits of a healthy diet and research nutrition in a bid to convince yourself it is a good idea. Pinterest is a great tool to create a board of healthy recipes and ideas for inspiration. Trust me, healthy food can be delicious. Focus on a healthy lifestyle for you and your family. Don’t look at it as diet or punishment but as a change of lifestyle and an investment in your future.
If you want to lose weight, start by cutting out sugar. (Don’t hate me.) Not only is sugar highly addictive and detrimental to weight, but it also causes inflammation and is thought to be a contributing factor in many auto-immune diseases. I know that if I have processed sugar, the RA flares up and I am in agony the next day.
Eat to live, don’t live to eat
A lot of people think it is expensive to be healthy, yet fast, junk and processed food can be a lot more expensive. Make shopping and cooking fun. Try new things. Visit markets with the dog and the kids. There are plenty popping up all over the place nowadays as the fresh food revolution takes over. Make it an outing in the fresh air and start preparing your kids to think fresh.
This way you are not tempted by all the good things in the store. I am loving this at the moment. We have a few online farm suppliers who deliver to your door. The best thing is that it is organic and as a bonus, you are supporting small business. Look online and find out what’s available in your area.
Aim to do some sort of activity at least 3x per week even if it is just a walk around the block. If you strive for more and have the time, great. Exercise is always more fun if you do it with a friend whether it is going to gym or playing a game of tennis. Look for ways to form new habits and overcome negative beliefs.
Follow the experts
If you want advice on nutrition, it is important to listen to a registered dietician and not every expert on social media. One that I find useful is the bean a foodie blog. She is vegetarian but also has some excellent articles and references on her blog. See www.beanafoodie.com. Once again, not an affiliate link.
We don’t have to be excessive about it. Everything in moderation, as too much can also be bad for us. Look at diet principles and guidelines for healthy eating. What are you not happy with? Is there something you would like to change? What can you change that would make a difference? You know yourself better than anybody else and most importantly it must work for you. What suits you best? It starts with an awareness of who we are, where we are and where we would like to be.
Make small adjustments and build up to a lifestyle that you want because if we try and change too many things all at the same time we set ourselves up for failure.
Many things are out of our control but our health is one thing that we do have a large degree of control over. It is crucial that we are in peak condition to deal with the life stressors that aren’t within our control. We never know when those will hit, so let’s have some petrol in our tanks for when they do.
While health is important, getting the perfect body should not be a priority. We need to take care of ourselves but it should not take over our lives. Aim for balance
Simple steps to a healthy lifestyle
- Worship God, not your body
- Eat a basic, balanced diet of natural foods as much as possible
- No fad or crash diets
- Minimize sugar and processed foods
- Aim to be more active, even if it is only light activity 3x a week
- Set specific health goals that will keep you focussed and motivated
If you have not completed the health questionnaire as part of the #checkmeout_challenge you can access the link below. This is not a scientific analysis but serves to give you an idea of your health habits and where they could do with improving, if necessary.
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