Here is an excerpt from a paper I wrote this past semester in school. Our assignment required us to give an extended definition, and I chose to explain my definition of “healthy” in comparison to what I often see in our country.
Thanks for reading,
What Does It Mean to Be Healthy?
America, as a nation, has long pursued the “American dream”. Part of that dream includes our health, wealth, and prosperity. In our culture we are bombarded by images of pretty people, and a façade of smiles and skimpy clothes showing perfectly toned bodies all over social media. But in today’s society, the reality is that, America is anything but “healthy”. Most Americans are busy working their nine-to-five jobs, over forty hours a week, to acquire a decent pay-check with health care benefits. We’ve settled for little free-time, and lots of stress. We have strayed from a balanced, healthy lifestyle, and traded it for money and things that we cannot afford. Ghandi once said, “It is health that is real wealth, and not pieces of gold and silver.”
So what is health? Is it your BMI? Or the “perfect” physique? Perhaps it is the 5-foot-nine-inch, supermodel frame. Or could it simply be a life free of sickness and disease? The definition of health is much more complex than these things alone. It is a vast, complex, idea that crosses the physical, mental, and spiritual boundaries of our lives. Health must be a balance of all of these aspects, working together to benefit our state of being.
Physically speaking, “health” has a broad definition. As a Health and Fitness Technology major at Cincinnati State, I’ve been learning a lot about the physical aspects of health. Some people think being “skinny” equals being “healthy”. Doctors often use charts with recommended Body Mass Index (BMI) numbers to determine if you have a healthy weight. But BMI does not account for overall bone and muscle mass, or different body types. A general “rule-of-thumb” is to keep your waist circumference under half of your total height in inches. Eat right, exercise, and avoid consuming more calories than you burn, and you will maintain a healthy weight. It is a simple concept, that is not always so simple to maintain. We are overrun by food ads on television and the latest “diet trends”. It can be easy to lose balance in our diet and exercise habits that promote healthy weight-management. But if you happen to be in a “healthy” weight category, according to the charts and graphs in the doctor’s office, does that make you healthy?
What about sickness and disease? Health is more than just looking good or being able to run an eight-minute mile. Health is the quality of life to accomplish our activities of daily living with excellence. Our current healthcare system and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are not always the most helpful in achieving this goal. Most foods in the modern American diet are ridden with hidden pesticides, genetically modified ingredients, and artificial colors and flavors that make our foods easier to produce and harder to digest. “It probably comes as no surprise to you that food addiction is actually one of the top addictions in America right now.” (Beni Johnson) Corporate businesses are enjoying the profits, but we are suffering the physical consequences. Diabetes and hypertension are at an all-time high, with no signs of improvement, and “approximately 39.6% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetimes”, according to Cancer.gov. These debilitating diseases prove that our society is not where it needs to be. Our healthcare systems are the best in the world, but we are still killing ourselves slowly. “Fat” or “thin” is simply not a picture of what health means.
Our physical health decline is also, without a doubt, effected by the way we handle ourselves emotionally. Self-esteem is greatly affected by physical fitness, and quality of life. With the barrage of beauty products and super-model secrets, our young men and women are desperate to get a “quick-fix” to beauty and happiness. We have developed a need for instant-gratification, and won’t stop until we achieve what the media deems perfect. “Comparison is the thief of joy”, according to Theodore Roosevelt. When we are in constant comparison physically, or materially, it leaves us dissatisfied and in emotional stress. Enough is never enough, and we become dependent on acquiring more. More food, more clothing, more technology, and even more relationships. We will grab at whatever satisfies our emotional need in the moment. This emotional dependency is not healthy. It creates a rollercoaster of actions that may fluctuate, moment by moment, based on how we feel at the time. This is a rollercoaster of instability and selfishness that can lead to all kinds of problems for ourselves, and others.
This lack of fulfillment and emotional dependency on people and things is the result of a deeper health problem, spiritual health. “A merry heart does good, like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). Spiritually, we are all created for wholeness, but we live in a broken and fallen world. We may strive for perfection, but we are far from it. Our physical selves are just a piece of who we are as humans. The spiritual part of us was made for a deeper purpose and sense of meaning, a connection with God. Without a deep connection to God, that place in our heart is left empty, and we are left trying to fill it with whatever will give us some temporary fulfillment. The result, again, leaves us feeling unsatisfied and without purpose. But the Bible says “seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be given to you” (Matthew 6:33). God knows our need for the physical things of this world, but He also knows our need for relationship and love. He created us for relationship with Him, the greatest love we could ever know. That love is like gravity, always pulling us toward something bigger than ourselves. God is love. God also designed each one of us with unique desires, gifts and talents. The more we seek His will for our lives spiritually, the more connected we become to our purpose, and therefore sense of fulfillment.
As spirit beings, we are connected to our physical bodies. When our minds and spirits are not well, we may also become physically sick. This brings me back my original question – what does it mean to be healthy? Since we are not just a physical body, that means health is not just physical. Since we are more than just our mind, it means it is not just emotional. And since we are more than just a spirit being, this means it is not just spiritual. It is a continuous triune thread, made by a triune being, that requires balance and consistency to maintain. To be healthy is the state of being fully alive. It is a journey. “As hard as it can be to stay on the journey of health, the price for wavering is even greater.” (Beni Johnson)
“Cancer Statistics.” National Cancer Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.
Ghandi, Mahatma. “Famous Quotes at BrainyQuote.” BrainyQuote. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.
The Holy Bible. “Proverbs 17:22” New King James Version (NKJV) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=proverbs17&version=NKJV
Johnson, Beni. 40 days to wholeness: body, soul, and spirit: a healthy & free devotional. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, Inc. 2016. Print.
Roosevelt, Theodore. “Get Inspired. Get Motivated.” Quotefancy: Wallpapers With Inspirational Quotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.