Saturday, April 20, 2013

Redefining Healthy



adjective, health·i·er, health·i·est.
possessing or enjoying good health or a sound and vigorous mentality: a healthy body; a healthy mind.
pertaining to or characteristic of good healthor a sound and vigorous mind: a healthy appearance;healthy attitudes.

As far as I can tell, the above definition is a very good thing. The majority of the world sees being 'healthy' as an ideal to strive towards. To me, however, the term healthy has taken on a distorted definition. As someone who has dealt with eating issues for more than half my life, I don't think I have ever been fully healthy, as the above definition describes it. 

To be honest, when I think of healthy, I don't think of the definition by To me, healthy is the equivalent of fat (but only for me!). Now, I know that's not logical or true, but that is one distorted belief that I am still in the process of overcoming. When someone tells me, "Wow, you look so healthy!", my first response is to assume that they mean that I look like I've gained weight. Realistically, that's generally when people tell me I look healthy, so it is understandable why I think the way that I do. However, when people tell me I look healthy, they don't usually mean it purely based on physical appearance. When people tell me I look healthy, they've also said that I look like I have the light back in my eyes, I look genuinely happy, my skin is glowing, my hair looks so much healthier. Those are all incredibly positive attributes.

So why, then, do I choose not to hear the positive things, and translate healthy into fat? Why is it that the majority of my friends who also have eating disorders do the same thing? Where along the lines did healthy become a negative thing, and how do I reconcile the true definition of healthy with what I believe it to mean?

I'm continually progressing towards the ever elusive "recovered" state, and I get closer with each step that I take. As a result, I have decided that it is time for me to redefine healthy in my life. Since I believe in the freedom principle, a.k.a. freedom in Christ, it is imperative to ensure that my definition of health includes a holistic view that does not neglect the importance of my spiritual health, as well as my physical, mental, and social health. 

I want to take some space to flesh out what I think that healthy ought to mean in each of those categories. 

Physical Health:
  • Maintaining a weight that is appropriate for my height
  • Getting adequate nutrition
  • Organs functioning properly
  • Functioning metabolism
  • Strong immune system
  • Normal circadian rhythm
  • Regular hunger and fullness cues
  • Correct levels of vitamins and minerals
  • Normal lab results
  • Building bone density and/or preventing further deterioration
  • Strong, shiny hair
  • Regular menstrual cycle
  • Physically active in ways that are enjoyable
  • Balanced brain chemistry
  • Vitals within the normal range
  • Strong, clean teeth
Mental Health
  • Able to cope with stressors appropriately
  • Good concentration levels
  • Stable mood - no extreme highs and lows
  • Can experience emotions without getting overwhelmed by them
  • Have a realistic view of self - can accept shortcomings without becoming distraught and can celebrate the positives without feeling guilty
  • Does not have a distorted view of physical self
  • Utilizes healthy coping strategies to manage urges
  • Does not experience panic attacks
  • Words and actions are in alignment
  • Aware of potential areas of struggle and works to put strategies in place to prevent slips
  • Flexible and able to accept change
  • Constantly pursuing personal growth in a way that enriches life
  • No suicidal ideation
  • Sets goals and creates a practical guide to accomplishing them
Social Health
  • Can function effectively as part of a group and as an individual without extreme feelings of dependence or isolation
  • Creates a solid support system who is available in times of need
  • Puts appropriate boundaries in place
  • Able to say no
  • Establishes healthy, mutual relationships and avoids unhealthy ones
  • Identifies needs within relationships and communicates them effectively
  • Does not run away when relationships start to get intimate - either platonically or romantically
  • Functions in many different roles in relationships, rather than just reverting back to caretaker every time
  • Able to be vulnerable with safe people
  • Identifies trustworthy people and invests in those relationships
Spiritual Health
  • Prioritizes the discipline of prayer and meditation
  • Maintain an attitude of servanthood (while still having boundaries and not being a doormat)
  • Engages in fellowship with other believers
  • Explores the concept of faith and constantly examining how it fits into life
  • Obeying God's commands
  • Engages in times of private and corporate worship
  • Takes thoughts captives and replaces lies with truth from God's Word
  • Reads the Bible regularly
  • Be plugged in to a local church 
  • Seeks accountability relating to spiritual matters
  • Participates in spiritually enriching conversations
  • Experiences a sense of wholeness through God
  • Operates out of an attitude of forgiveness rather than contempt and bitterness
  • Does not try to accomplish difficult things in human strength, but relies on the strength of God
  • Does not base decisions solely on emotions, but looks at what God says - feelings are fickle, but God is constant
  • Lives based on freedom in Christ

By no means is this a comprehensive list, but this is just the beginning of my thoughts about what health is and what it means to be healthy. I think that the definition of healthy is fluid depending on life stages and circumstances, so I want to be flexible in my approach to the notion of health and be willing to add or remove attributes as I learn and grow more. 

Based on this list, healthy no longer has a negative connotation, but it takes on the positive attributes that other people deem worthy of striving towards. I'm not saying that believe everything on this list right now, but this is what I want healthy to mean for me, and this is what I am going to strive to believe from now on. 

Now, when somebody says, "You look so healthy!", I'm going to smile and say thank you, because I know they are paying me a genuine compliment. 

All that being said, I'm definitely interested in what you all think that healthy means. Please leave a comment with your thoughts about the meaning of health!

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