Sorry, but it has to be said. Healthy doesn’t have a standard. Healthy doesn’t have a shape or size. In fact there is absolutely no way to qualify the blanket term ‘health’ that works across the board. Healthy is a fluid word, that could mean differing things dependent on the person.
So I’m fed up with these nonsense claims I see “professionals” pushing of a certain look, build, or shape that are true signals of health. I want to tell you everything that’s wrong with these people and their false narratives and explain why these claims are damaging to so many hardworking people.
Lets get one thing out of the way first. There is a body type or structure that is considered “desirable.” We all know what it is. Lean, visible and vascular muscles. A strong looking lean build that fits in with a “societal beauty standard.” That body exists and many people try to attain it. I am one of them. I want a better working, better looking, stronger body.
One of my goals is to look a certain way. But that’s my personal fitness goal. Notice how in this paragraph I DID NOT mention the word health or healthy. That’s because healthy does not have a build or body type. It doesn’t have a look or standard. Its so widespread and variable.
I want to be clear though. Getting what you want as an ideal physique could (and for many is) a goal to chase. It doesn’t make you vain for wanting to look a certain way. For most it’s about personal self confidence and comfort. I know for me that’s the case. But, I also know the body I want isn’t attainable for so many people out there. That’s why fitness professionals, like myself, need to actively be better in our public perception and message on health.
Just because I have a personal standard of fitness and health for myself, does not mean that works or is even “healthy” for others. The journey or lifelong health and fitness is deeply personal and individualized. Yet, so many “public figures” seem to push out the idea that you must look a certain way to be healthy. It’s nonsense and frankly, I’m growing tired of seeing this message out there.
BMI Is BS
BMI is not a good indicator of health
To start, I want to break down some walls and expose a few myths. Now I know a lot of you probably already know these things, but for those that don’t, let me break it down. BMI or Body Mass Index is a standard, still used, tool for measuring someone’s health and predictive outcomes. The problem is, it’s a bullshit tool. Even though your doctor may use it to evaluate your health, it’s incredibly outdated. In simple terms BMI is a ratio of your height to your weight and that is all.
No deep numbers of muscle mass or bone density. No measure of water weight or other factors like health conditions. Just your height and your weight. So, if you’re short like me and have a higher than “average” muscle mass, you’re going to score high. In fact my BMI sits me in the overweight category and halfway to obese.
Now, because of sometimes low self confidence or esteem, I see myself as overweight. But, most objective or subjective measures would disagree. Especially considering I’m almost obese according to BMI. In fact it says I need to be between 115-154 lbs to be considered “healthy.” Its outrageous. Don’t pay it any mind.
Crash Diets & Moderation
I also want to discuss some crash diets, if you can even call them that. A lot of diets you see will talk about caloric deficit, which is very important for losing weight or body fat. However, sometimes you see a significantly high caloric deficit that becomes detrimental to your health. That’s why so called “crash diets” don’t work. They promise you quick fix success to lower weight and healthier you. It couldn’t be further from the truth.
You’ve seen them promoted, the military diet, the potato diet, the “10 in 7” diet, etc. All things that promise quick results by making your eating choices “healthier”. Often, all that happens is you end up starving yourself on 1,000 calories a day. People don’t realize the dangerous effects this can have on you. Depending on the individual dropping to such a low caloric intake, even for a week, can lead to low blood pressure, low blood sugar, headaches, muscle loss etc.
Its terrifying and dangerous to jump on these fads. Some of them never become fads, but if there’s enough people trying them and telling you about their one week 10 pound weight loss it can sound convincing. The thing is, restricting yourself that much is not healthy. Your body needs food to properly operate and build muscle, which is the key to true fat burning. A
Also, the extreme measure of limiting certain foods or having “bad” or “dangerous” foods is not healthy. For one, it gives you a negative relationship with food. This has the ability to branch off into eating disorders or OCD conditions related to food. Everyone should strive for a healthy relationship with food, but for some it truly is hard. What makes it harder is when we’re told everything that is good and bad for you and what you can or can’t eat. Once again this forms that poor food relationship.
Now you’ll never catch me saying a big bacon burger with fries is healthy. But, damn its’ delicious. And that’s where this relationship comes in again. It’s okay to eat those foods. I encourage you to enjoy yourself and indulge in moderation. The key is don’t look at it as rewarding yourself if that’s damaging to your personal relationship to food. It doesn’t have to be something you earn. You’re allowed to just enjoy yourself and spend time doing or eating things you love.
My big takeaway here is do everything in moderation. It’s a principle I try to live by. It keeps you having fun and being on task or disciplined at the same time. Enjoy yourself and have fun with different foods. Just try to keep a healthy balanced diet rich in vegetables, complex carbs, and a good protein source.
The Healthy Approach
Harping on what was said above, I truly believe operating in moderation is key. Eat healthy and take care of yourself, but not so obsessively it’s causing you mental pain and lack of enjoyment. Exercise and move more, but so much it’s taking away from other things or causing overuse injuries.
The good news is healthy doesn’t have a required weight. It doesn’t abs, or to be skinny. Healthy is variable. Let me explain. So person A is leaner person at say 175 lbs. They have an active job, but only work out one time per week for say 45 minutes. No other moving activities. Person A has what is objectively a poor diet. Fast food 4 or 5 times per week and mostly processed or quick foods. This person is able to roughly maintain the same weight for prolonged periods of time.
Now person B is a larger build at 235 lbs. They have a sedentary job, but work out three times a week for 30 to 45 minutes. They also take short walks when they can at home. Person B has a moderate diet. They make dinners of whole foods most nights and eat fast food 2 times per week at most. This person has lost 20 lbs over the last 4 months.
Now tell me who sounds like they are living life healthier? Most would assume smaller person means they are healthier. But here it’s so obvious that’s wrong. They have a poor diet and pretty light exercise habits. Maybe they operate at a higher metabolism and better genetic makeup. Meanwhile, Person B is making slow but steady progress despite being overweight still. Maybe blood tests would show numbers to back this statement up. It doesn’t matter because this is anecdotal, but shows how fluid the word “healthy” can be.
I do want to make another thing clear. I’m not saying gaining weight and fat mass is healthy. I’m not saying being overweight and doing nothing to combat it is healthy. I’m not saying eating unhealthy foods everyday is healthy. I’m not saying not exercising is healthy.
What I am saying is we all have different goals and we are all at different starting points of those goals. We’re all running the marathon of lifelong happiness and health. The problem is that some of us are on mile 15 while others are on mile 1. Just because they are behind us doesn’t mean they aren’t mustering up the courage to run. It just means we all have a different pace. We came from different places, and we’re going different places. But, we are all in this race together.
So instead of judging those where in front of or who operate differently than us, I challenge my peers to be better. Let’s encourage and cheer on those brave enough to begin the race. Lets all lift each other up and empower each other to see it through to the end. We owe it to ourselves as professionals to have this compassion for those around us and impacted by us. We owe it to our clients and the general public to be loud in this message.