In The Name of Health
In the last several weeks, I received news about amazing women I know fighting for health in their lives. One family member is fighting for her baby’s health as he struggles to eat and maintain his weight, another friend is planning for a radical surgery as a preventative measure against cancer. A newer friend of mine recently discovered a mass in her lungs and has begun chemo therapy to tackle the cancer in her body. All three of these women greatly inspire me with their courage, passion and strength. In their quest for health, they face challenges, uncertainty and a roller coaster of emotion. Their stories have unwritten chapters ahead of them as they seek to do what is best for their health. Yet, my work has taught me that our quest for health can look completely different from person to person.
Health. We hear this word a lot: In the news; in commercials for products and diets; in research findings; in schools; on magazine covers with claims of the best in the name of what is healthy. When looking further into the meaning of what all of these voices are calling healthy, I find such a wide-range of definitions. Marriam-Webster online defines health as the following:
1 a : the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit; especially : freedom from physical disease or pain b : the general condition of the body <in poor health> <enjoys good health>
2 a : flourishing condition : well-being b : general condition or state <poor economic health>
If I use this definition as a platform for discussing health, then that leaves many I know operating from a warped and inaccurate view of what is truly healthy. Many of the men and women I work with are striving for health, but in a way that actually depletes their health body, mind and spirit. 50+ billion dollars annually are spent every year in our country on diet and “health” related products. Many of these products make a lot of promises but rarely deliver. Others leave people in bondage so that they are fearful of living life without sticking to a specific plan.
This is a big theme as I seek to propose ways we can (re) define health as we know it. We crave, hunger, desire for so much more. Diets, health food, fear of fat, control, deprivation, denying who we are called to be for fear of rejection, alienation are some of the many ways in which we try to manage our pain and our fear. Yes, we have choices on how we feed, move and care for our bodies and souls. No, there is not a quick fix to being able to sit with the tension of it all. But if we are operating from our passions, are in touch with our true identity – not one sold to us – then maybe, just maybe, the diet industry may go out of business (OK, a girl can only hope…) and health, quality health, can be achieved.
(re)Defining Health with Respect
The news is not lacking with stories about the “obesity epidemic” and television shows focusing on radical weight loss in the name of health are very popular. I will add my voice to the discussion on:
- the disordered eating spectrum,
- Orthorexia and how the quest for health can turn into a debilitating and often deadly obsession,
- EDNOS (Eating Disorder not otherwise specified)
- the HAES (Healthy At Any Size) movement
- Intuitive Eating and a non-diet philosophy
Challenging various definitions of what is “healthy” can be volatile and feel very personal. My hope is to respectfully challenge some of the beliefs, philosophies and motivations behind the many definitions of health out there with the goal of moving the discussion away from fear, prejudice and misinformation towards true freedom and health with passion, love and respect. There will be other contributors to add additional perspective to the effort to (re) define health. Stay tuned. Some good stuff is coming! I also hope you will join in this important discussion. Your voice matters.
- How do you define health?
- What do think about the struggles of obesity in our culture?
- Do you think an over emphasis on weight will prevent obesity or create more food and body issues?