What is it to be healthy? Who do you look to for a healthy dose of inspiration? Is it the local fitness leader or personal trainer or do you get motivated by the neighbourhood triathlete? Could it be the woman who dropped 100 pounds in six months that gets you eager to trade in your soda for salad? What if it was the guy down the street enjoying a belly laugh with friends; who volunteers to help others and does what he can to maintain a healthy balance in his life? Could he serve as your role model for health?
Quite simply, the definition of health is balance. A balance of the mind, body, and spirit helps to reduce chronic illness and promotes a higher quality (and perhaps quantity) of life. Of course, if you are ever lucky enough to find that perfect balance for even a minute it is usually disrupted when life takes over–but that’s reality. My personal definition of wellness is to have the self-awareness enough to sense when one is imbalanced and the tools available to get back on track. From stress and emotional management to getting your seven to eight hours of sleep a night, these strategies lead us on the path to good health.
Having worked in the fitness industry for over 20 years, I was witness to much imbalance as exercisers and instructors worked out for hours a day. Some were training for marathons or triathlons while others were working themselves into the shape of a stick; monitoring every morsel of food that passed their lips. I, myself, was leading up to 14 fitness classes a week (while doing my workouts on the side) in the name of health and fitness. It wasn’t until I read Gabor Mate’s book, “When the Body Says No” that I realized I had a lot to learn about health.
We see it all the time in the media, health is defined by how we look, what we eat, and how much we exercise. Those that abstain from sloth and gluttony and move towards the light of leafy greens and daily physical activity are celebrated and admired. Interestingly, this is only a small part of the bigger, healthier picture. Research shows us that laughter, giving to others, challenging ourselves intellectually, awareness and communication of our emotions, and believing in something bigger than ourselves leads to good health. So why do we celebrate the extreme exerciser or “controlled” eater? Why not the person that works towards a balance in all components of well-being?
I believe we all have something to celebrate and all can be role models for good health. Everyone does at least one thing to promote their own health and well being (even if it doesn’t include exercise and eating well). So before you feel the pangs of guilt or shame because of all the things you “should” be doing, focus on the things you do now in the name of good health. You will be healthier (and happier) for it!
Kathi Cameron holds a masters degree in Exercise and Health Psychology and is an author and speaker on topics related to health promotion and realistic health behaviour change.