I have a little twinge of distain every time I hear or read a buzz word in the media. The most frustration is with the word healthy. It’s as if adding the word healthy to your headline makes it appeal to a broader base of people; who doesn’t want to be healthy, right? It may shock a few in the advertising and marketing industries, but words actually have pre-established meanings. Using an adjective to describe something does not make that item embody the attribute. Unfortunately, we are becoming less and less aware of when words are manipulated in order to manipulate us. We like the picture, the font, the color; so we click and someone gets paid. These techniques work. If they didn’t people wouldn’t keep using them.
The word healthy has come to be synonymous with “whatever your idea of perfect is”. This is a dangerous and dysfunctional definition. First, perfection is a myth. There really is no such thing. However, there is uniformity. Which is really what we’re saying when we speak of perfection. Uniformity means that we all embrace sameness. When speaking of our bodies, sameness is completely counter-intuitive. At our most basic level, none of us are the same. We all have a different set of blueprints (genetics) and different instructions for how to use those blueprints (epigenetics). Sameness leads to disconnect with ourselves. This disconnect is the cement that holds together the bricks in the wall that keeps us from reaching our optimal state of function. Healthy is something that appeals to most of America because we are by in large in a state of dysfunction. Most of our country has a certain brokenness in our bodies, relationships, finances, environment, communities, and workplaces. It seems obvious that we would desire to pursue the goal of healthy in these things. However, healthy is not a place that we arrive at. It is more like the road we travel on. The goal is actually function. Function doesn’t mean that we never need to correct an imbalance. Function means that we have the tools, knowledge, and skills to make the correction.
As a nutrition coach I am frequently questioned by people trying to take control of their health about what foods are healthy to eat. This is not a conversation that can be completed in a single sitting. I would even say that this isn’t something that can be addressed in a couple sittings. There are several components to consider when we start the process of figuring out what the road to function looks like for the individual.
There are some primary components that I look at when helping people pave their way and there are a number of factors that go into each of those. It’s almost impossible to unpack all of that until you actually start the process. Many things don’t come up until something else has been dealt with. For example, I might meet with someone who wants to lose weight and get more active. After discussing their specific goals and what their life looks like, it comes up that they have a very demanding work schedule and that their adult children are still very dependent on them. This person has said that their goal is to simply take an uninterrupted lunch break. The issue for this person is not that they are eating too much or being lazy. The issue is that they have a hard time setting boundaries with others and that they feel that if they aren’t available to everyone 24/7, the world will not go on. It would be hard for this person to look at their situation alone and see that the primary thing standing in the way of function is a thought process that puts them at the bottom of their priority list and yet overemphasizes their importance in the lives of those around them. That can be a lot to swallow. Challenging that thought process can bring up a lot of things that could be hard to deal with and change.
You can see that simply adopting a diet plan or a workout schedule will fail to implement meaningful change and will most likely lead to another brick in the barrier to actual function in your life. To stop building that wall you will have to first question what you’re being told. Not just the message, but the imagery as well. Second, redefine what it is you are seeking. If you want to have an optimally functioning life, body, and mind you’ll have to start looking at healthy as a path to get to those things. You can’t arrive at function without dealing with some road blocks and that usually means that focused effort will be required. Don’t forget that you are not alone in working through the things that stand in the way of developing the tools, knowledge, and skills you need in order to maintain function in your life. Reach out and ask for help from reputable sources and don’t take anything that doesn’t stand up to your newly embraced ideology of what healthy means. It may seem daunting in the beginning, but once you get a little further down the path you’ll see that the first step was the hardest and that the barriers you encounter become easier to dismantle as you gain experience walking the path of healthy.