Monday, April 30, 2012

The different faces of health

Originally posted June 28, 2011

 I have been ruminating over the fact that "health" looks different on every person. Just like no two people look the same, no two healthy lifestyles look the same. Sometimes we get caught up in the idea that the healthy way we live is the healthy way everyone should live, but this isn't necessarily the case.

Take for example napping during the day. There are some who simply function better with a nap. Pregnant women, for example, often need that extra sleep to keep them going. This is not to say that it is lazy or unhealthy in these people. No, they just need a nap. But in someone else needing a nap to get through the day could be a sign of serious illness or depression.
One of the best examples I can think of is water intake. While I think it is true that most of us (me included) do not drink nearly enough water (not diet soda folks, water) I do not think that the recommended 8 glasses of 8 oz is necessarily true for everyone. There are some individuals who probably don't need as much. And I know for a fact that some people need much more (especially those working outside in the hot summer sun).
There is really no "one size fits all" when it comes to everything about health. A vegetarian or vegan lifestyle might be incredibly healthy for some, but others might be using that lifestyle as a form of restriction fueling an eating disorder they have yet to address.  We are often quick to judge when someone does something we disagree with, but who's to say that for that individual eating meat isn't exactly what their body needs in order to thrive? Oh I agree there are things that are clearly unhealthy and things that are clearly more healthy than others. But on a large scale perspective do we really have a right to judge the health of another person because they choose differently than we do in a few areas?
Size is the biggest debate for most when it comes to health. We see a curvy woman and assume that she never exercises, eats potato chips, drinks soda, and has simply given up trying to be healthy. But this is an unfair judgement. Sure there are folks out there that fit this description, but there are a lot of skinny people who could also be categorized as such. No, there are many fantastic curvy people who are leaps and bounds above some of their thinner peers on the health scale.
I guess the point I'm trying to make is that our health is entirely personal. No one should tell us what is and isn't best for our bodies. Doctors can make suggestions. We can read the books on good nutrition. We can learn how to move our bodies to exercise that we enjoy from a teacher or instructor. But none of these resources (who are likely just trying to help) live in your body. None of them knows that after running or doing heavy cardio you get migraines and can't see straight for the rest of the day. None of them gets that you aren't being lazy by taking a nap; your body just requires more rest than the average person. You are the only one that knows what feels good and what doesn't.
It's time to stop looking around to figure out what is healthy. It's time to start turning inward and asking your body what it wants and needs. Trust me, it knows. With a little practice you'll be able to figure it out, and your life will be more full and much more healthy because of it.