The Picture of Health
"She is the picture of health."
I've been thinking about this phrase a lot recently. And even just about that word: Health. Maybe it's because we are at a point in time where images are relentlessly pushed at us and we are constantly subjected to subliminal marketing messages. Maybe it's because there is so much information regarding health and wellness--so much of it conflicting and confusing and unclear.
So it made me wonder... what do people think of when they imagine someone who is "the picture of health". If I asked you to close your eyes and conjure an image that, in your opinion, epitomized health, what would that look like?
Here's what I imagine most people would think of:
Pictures like this are on every cover of every magazine, on every commercial for the latest exercise/diet/supplement guaranteed to bring you ultimate health, fitness, and ultimately (duh) happiness. You are not truly a pillar in the health and fitness industry unless you have an instagram account flooded with images just like these to prove that you possess the knowledge and discipline necessary to hold a physique like this. This is a picture of health, no?
But what about the other parts of the word "health" that we are so quick to forget? What about heart disease, and diabetes and high blood pressure and cholesterol? What about how much energy you have to spend time with your family and friends and how positive your relationships are? What about your risk for cancers and skeletal injuries and that nagging headache you get every day around 2:30pm and those 4-5 hours of sleep you've been getting regularly for the last ten years? Aren't those a part of your health too?
I think the biggest dissappointment in the health and fitness industry has been the de-emphasizing of all things relating to health that are NOT how great your six pack looks or how firm your booty is or how little of that annoying arm flab you have. I think we have a responsibility as health and wellness professionals to remind our students and clients that health is a bigger picture, it is a full representation of your life and what your physical condition, both internally and externally, allows you to do. Now listen, I get that we all want to look good naked. I hear ya. I'm not saying forget about what you look like and start measuring your health exclusively by your annual blood tests and physicals, but I do think we've got to bring things into balance a bit more. So here I am doing my part:
If you do not have a six pack, it does NOT mean that you are not healthy.
If you would not willingly take off your shirt and parade around carelessly on the nearest beach, it does NOT mean you are not healthy.
If you had a donut this morning for breakfast, it does not mean you are not healthy.
In fact, I would be willing to argue that 90% of the people in the images we see representing health are actually less healthy than you! They probably have been chronically undereating and overtraining to obtain that physique, they probably have little to no social life due to the lifestyle necessary to get there, they probably have whacked out hormones and fragile bones and all kinds of problems that you don't have!
So who in the heck decided that this should be our picture of health?!?
Let me just say a few things to get them off my chest--things I say to clients when they ask me what weight they should use to just "tone up" their arms and thighs or how many calories they should eat to lose "this extra stuff around my stomach" that just won't go away.
We lift weights to build muscle. The primary function of skeletal muscle is:
Help you move
Support your bone structure
Maintain your posture
You may notice the missing item on the list: get you as many likes as possible on facebook or help you remedy your insecurities or make your ex fall back in love with you.
These muscles make sure you can get through your daily life, (hopefully for many years) without risk of bone fracture or loss and general injury. So we lift weights to enhance these properties: To make you move better or faster or safer and to give you the endurance to sit up straight at your desk so you don't have to pay a chiropractor to repair your achy neck.
We eat well for some cool reasons too:
To avoid risk of diseases (Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc..)
To regulate hormone levels
To provide the energy we need for daily activity
To provide the vitamins and minerals to support bodily functions
Gosh, I'm seeing a pattern here, aren't you?? It's like... our body does stuff that's kind of important! And we want to help it do that stuff well so that we feel good and don't die terrible, painful, disease ridden deaths or feel depressed and tired and shitty all the time!
The picture of health is starting to get so much more complex and interesting, guys!!
Ok, the lecture is coming to a close. But I hope there is a valuable takeaway for you. Maybe it's that you're healthier than you thought, or that you have more to work on than you realized. I always encourage my clients to set multiple goals when they start working with me, and they must involve things outside of the typical "lose 10 lbs". So if you are at the beginning of a health-seeking journey (aren't we all???), I challenge you to sit down and have an honest look at the FULL picture of what your most healthy self looks like from a physical, mental and emotional perspective. Make sure you are evaluating the right things as you move through this journey, or you may find yourself chasing goals that don't get you any closer to that healthy, happy life that you deserve.
Not sure what your goals are?? Hit me up and let me help you figure that out! Disagree with something I've said here? Let's start a conversation! Leave a comment below and let's get talking!