Health is a rather ubiquitous term these days. What, however, does it really mean? Given the rise of obesity and other diet related diseases I think defining the term correctly has become increasingly important. Strangely, my vision as to what it means to be healthy has changed over the years, but I’ve always been interest in being healthy. I suppose this sounds like an semantically oriented problem that I only I can resolve, but I’ll take a stab at sharing some thoughts here anyway. Is health synonymous with longevity? Is it being free of disease? Are running marathons, doing yoga, and lifting weights healthy?
In the past, I considered health and fitness to be fairly synonymous. I thought that a fit looking or skinny person surely must be healthy. I’ve come to realize that this is not necessarily true. I certainly believe one can be healthy while being fit or skinny; however, it is not necessarily a component of health. There are people who are fit and skinny, but not healthy. In my opinion, the distinction is important.
Being active is certainly an important part of a health, but I think as a society we place too much emphasis on it. Unfortunately, the same people who are telling you need to be exercising more are the same ones trying to sell you something. Belonging to a gym or having a trainer are not requisites to being healthy; although, I do understand that some people benefit from the motivation they offer. It’s often much easier to incorporate healthy movement into a lifestyle than many people think. Alleviating some of the confusion around what one has to do physically certainly allows time to focus on the more important issue of diet.
From what I know, diet is by far the most important component of health. Again, my views on what constitutes a healthy diet have drastically changed over the years. I don’t believe that any one diet is superior to others as long as it incorporates Michael Pollan’s terse philosophy, “eat ‘real’ food.” In general, if someone has to advertise something to me in order for me to buy it, I know I probably shouldn’t be eating it.
Before taking advice from any more so called experts about health, I think it important we address this central question: What is health?