I stopped focusing on 'being healthy' years ago. Instead, I shifted into managing my health state. It's easy to talk about health as a thing that you seek to acquire and maintain. 'I am healthy'. 'At least I have my health'. Or on the flip side, 'I don't have any health problems' is a common, negative framing. It's not like that. Your health isn't a fixed, objective thing. It's a state that's changing shape all the time. It's not permanent. It's permanently in flux.
To add confusion to transience, the culturally accepted response to the question 'Are you healthy?' really depends on the popular definition of 'healthy' and 'normal'. Historically, that's subject to change. Today, the definition of health is defined in terms of the absence of disease. But just because you aren't unhealthy, it doesn't mean that you're healthy, right? The absence of disease isn't the same as excellent health. Our definition rigs the game.
Defining health properly
The moment I read this definition of health, something clicked. I stumbled across it in Dr Andrew Weil's book, '8 Weeks to Optimum Health'. I think it captures a truth that's too easily ignored. If you've seen your health falter despite your genuine intentions to promote it, it's a confronting and refreshing reality check.
'Health is a dynamic and temporary state of equilibrium destined to break down as conditions change, but most of the break downs needs not be major. The point is that health is not static; it is normal to lose it periodically in order to come back to it in a better way.'
- Dr Andrew Weil
This isn't just useless semantics. Defining health properly has real implications. If it's accepted that health is transient, it tells us to tread carefully around claims of 'perfect' health and the people and products that promise it. On the other hand, if you buy into the message of 'healthism', you'll be tempted to buy into other gimmicks and gadgets, too. Health sells, and perfection sells it faster.
Is there really all that much 'health' in the 'health and fitness' industry?
The terms 'health and fitness' and 'health and performance' are misleading. Health is not fused to fitness or performance. They have the potential to intersect, but it's easy to forget that they can diverge. The 'healthiest' and 'fittest' are not immune. You are uniquely vulnerable. Our culture offers us a free pass to a 'healthy' label, making it all too easy to drift from proactively managing your health state as you tread the line of health and performance. But it's a fragile line.
It's ok to lose your balance sometimes. That doesn't make you unhealthy and inadequate. That makes you human. It's just a temporary dip. Your health is not a finite game that has an end result. It's endless play. Keep playing.