I want you to stop and think about this question: “What does being healthy and fit mean to me?” Yes, YOUR personal opinion as to what constitutes being healthy and fit, not what you think society has painted fitness to be (e.g., hard 6-pack abs, tanned and oiled up body, someone lifting the equivalent of a truck). Maybe being healthy means losing enough weight that you no longer get winded walking up a flight of stairs. Or, it means lowering your blood pressure, eating more vegetables, or drinking water throughout the day. What about fitness? To some, it could be marked by completing a 10k race or a Tough Mudder. You could have the goal of making it through an entire fitness class without needing a break, doing 10 unassisted pull-ups, chest pressing those 40lbs dumb bells, or seeing some new muscle definition. Whatever it is, the point is this – it’s PERSONAL. The point of this post is twofold, to think about:
- Your standard of what “healthy” and “fit” means will likely change drastically across your lifespan.
- Your standard of what “healthy” and “fit” means can differ greatly from mine, your best friend’s, or that guy on the treadmill next to you.
Across your lifespan – This should be pretty self-explanatory now that you’re thinking about it. As we get older, our interests and priorities change, as do our standards and beliefs. For example, when I was in grade school, I never thought about being “healthy” or “fit”, just that I loved running (and winning races, or being the last girl running in the beep test). In high school, my focus was synchronized skating for 90% of the year, going to practices and working my ass off every time I stepped on the ice – getting through 2 hours of practice every day definitely left me feeling fit! I didn’t put much thought into nutrition or overall health though (I was in high school, my mom cooked my meals!). Now, with bodybuilding as my main focus, all of my standards and beliefs have shifted again. I have my own personal standard for health, and a very different standard of what it means for me to be fit. Overall though, I always want to be as active as possible, doing things I love, and pushing myself to reach new goals and achievements. Watching my body change along the way is a product of these goals. An important difference to point out here – having bigger biceps than I did a year ago doesn’t make me more fit. It makes me stronger, but not necessarily more fit. I still use my aerobics classes as a measuring tool for my fitness – as long as I can get through those, with strong instructional skills on stage, I consider myself fit. My health is measured in a variety of ways – through optimal nutrition, keeping a healthy body weight (outside my stage weight), and doing all those fun, preventative screening tests I need.
Additionally, throughout life we face a lot of ups and downs which impact our health and fitness, either directly or indirectly. Pregnancy, injuries, illnesses, and mental health issues can all impact our standards for what it means to be healthy. Suddenly being diagnosed with a chronic disease is bound to shift your priorities (either for the good or the bad – it’s up to you). Struggling with depression is obviously going to play a major role in your fitness levels and how much effort you put into them. These times are just another point in your life where your standards will change. Deal with what’s important at the time in order to reach your “new” healthy standards. Take the time to rehab an injury fully to get back to 100%, listen to your body when you’re feeling a cold coming on, and adjust your nutrition as needed when pregnant – these are your priorities now.
Accept different views – Understand that not everyone will share the same standards as you when it comes to health and fitness, which can be frustrating. Remember, everyone has a different life story and different goals. It’s only natural to want to share your passion with those you care about, especially when it comes to being healthy. BUT, pushing your views on others may not go over well. Recognize some boundaries when it comes to “sharing” your views with others.
Possibly talking about their health and fitness thoughts or goals can help you understand and even help them to be successful. Just because it’s a different journey doesn’t mean you can’t travel the path together. From encouraging them, to joining them in some activities, you could be that extra push they need – you never know! Don’t turn your back on them simply because their standard is different than yours.
So, what’s the point I’m trying to make? Take it easy on yourself. If you don’t have a perfectly flat stomach, does that mean you’re unhealthy? NO. If you’re a healthy body weight, are active and eating a nutritionally balanced diet, yet struggling to lose those “last 5lbs”, are you unfit or unhealthy? NO.
I think it’s always important to have a goal to be working towards, and it’s definitely important that everyone is as healthy as they can be. But, health is a relative term to everyone – you need to decide for yourself what healthy means for you,and do your best to reach that standard. Don’t let someone else decide for you – especially the media! Healthy comes in all shapes, sizes, and yes, weights.