Some Thoughts on “Health”

Just because you’re not sick doesn’t mean you’re healthy. 
~Author Unknown

I’ve been I guess you’d call it “more observant” lately of the ways in which people speak about health, weight and weight loss.  One thing that I’ve noticed a lot is how people seem to speak about “health” as not just a lucky status in which one might happily find oneself; but as a WIN.  Healthy is tossed back and forth as the best of winning titles.  The goal of any activity you do, the reason behind eating particular foods, the motivating factor in all you do is to obtain that elusive gold-belt championship title: “Healthy”.  Like running a marathon for the cheers and glory as you cross the finish line; the struggles towards “good health” are supposed to end with hip-hip-hoorays for your win.

I personally find this fascinating.  There are factors which can influence your health over which we each personally have a certain level of control: eating a good variety so you get all the nutrients you need, moving around to keep your muscles strong, avoiding chemicals or exposure to nuclear waste.  However, there are quite the gamut of influencing factors OUTSIDE of our control which have just as much, or even more, say in whether or not that glorious crown of “healthy” laurels will rest upon our heads.  Things such as genetics, economic status (and your ability to fund foods or activities you need), circumstances/environment, and just plain old dumb luck.  Anyone can fall sick at any time.

Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick.  Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place. 

~Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor, 1977

With so little pertaining to our health actually affected by our own actions in regards to diet and exercise, I find it very telling that we still insist on using the language of “success” and “loss” to refer to our physical and mental well-being.

Wellness is not a sport where “good health” is the winner’s circle.  Unless that sport is a gauntlet run done with one eye closed and no control over one half of your body throughout the lane of obstacles.  And at the end, when you get to that finish line, you still pass out dead.  No matter how you’ve limped or soared through the obstacles thrown at you; we all get to the finish line eventually and we all end up in the same “winners circle”.  It is called death. 

Men that look no further than their outsides, think health an appurtenance unto life, and quarrel with their constitutions for being sick; but I that have examined the parts of man, and know upon what tender filaments that fabric hangs, do wonder that we are not always so; and considering the thousand doors that lead to death, do thank my God that we can die but once. 
~Thomas Browne

To step away from the morbidity a bit for a moment, just thinking about this makes me remember how often in the past I’d been working to “improve my health”; when really I was playing a waiting game with my life.  I spent all my time and energy trying to achieve some unachievable goal/standard, in the hopes that when I got there… what exactly?  What did I hope all the diets, exercise mania, etc would accomplish?  I never enjoyed the life I had at the moment, always looking towards the future when getting “thin” would mean… I don’t even know anymore.  What?  That I would finally “Win” and get to sit back and enjoy my life and my health? Well you know what?  Fuck that.

What some call health, if purchased by perpetual anxiety about diet, isn’t much better than tedious disease. 
~George Dennison Prentice, Prenticeana, 1860

I’m healthy.  I’m very very lucky to be so healthy.  And I refuse to let some media-influence beauty ideals convince me that my health can only be “true” or “appreciated” in a certain sized package.  No.  It doesn’t work that way.  I will continue to feel so blessed to be this lucky.

Health isn’t a one set point goal.  It is a spectrum.  It is a range.  And it varies; it is a personal range.  There IS NO one version of health.  It can be just feeling good enough with how much mobility, energy, mental capacity and stamina you have, regardless of what disabilities, illnesses or troubles you may have.  It can mean of multitude of things to a multitude of people who have all lived different experiences and have known varying levels of health and sickness.  There is no ONE answer to the question of “what is HEALTH?”; no one single standard to hold to and no ONE point at which you WIN the game of healthy living. 

Too many of us spend too little time appreciating how healthy we ARE and too MUCH time worrying about how healthy we MAY not be.


8 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on “Health”

  1. Great post. So much aesthetic (and morally superior) fat hate gets clothed in “health” talk, that I tend to focus in that direction. It’s good to remember that the problem is bigger than that.

    “Health” is supposed to be THE goal for all people all the time. We are, in fact, socially obligated to reach for ideal, impossible, never-gonna-die health. If you dare to question that–well you’re just encouraging people to “let themselves go” and please, please, won’t someone think of the children?

    You know, I want to live in a world where some people want to be healthy and others don’t give a damn–they’re too busy staying up all night smoking cigarettes and drinking absinthe and writing poetry. Or pushing themselves 80 hours a week in pursuit of some glittering scientific truth. All health all the time isn’t just impossible, it’s BORING.

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