Health & Fitness

Have We Lost The Real Meaning Of Health?

I’ve had the privilege of sitting on a fair few panel talks recently, exploring the real meaning of health.  Some were in front of a fitness crowd, and some more corporate, but regardless of the audience, I found one common belief between them all- ‘health is a weight on the scale, and healthy food is food which aids in weight loss’. This couldn’t be further from the truth! So, where did it get so skewed?

Health In The Age Of Social Media

To begin, the correct definition of health is: ‘A state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’. I don’t know about you, but I can’t see anything in that definition about scales, calories, weight loss or restricting. It reads to me, that health is about gaining rather than losing.

phone with social media apps

I think health first lost it’s message in the media when the A-list celebs were being glorified for following things like the 5:2 diet. Then when social media took over, we had an influx of self-proclaimed ‘fitness gurus’ trying to make their diet sounds sexier to the next person, in the pursuit of feeling significant.  On top of all of that, unattainably lean men and women laced the front pages of Women’s/ Men’s Health magazines, forcing people to believe that if they wanted to be deemed as healthy they had to look like a superhero.

I was a victim of following the wrong definition of health for the most part of my teens. I was a believer that less is more, and my lack of knowledge resulted in landing me in a very dark place. It’s taken a good few years for me to find my own feet again when it comes to what health really is, but I’ve persevered and I feel like my lifestyle now reflects the true meaning of health.

So what does it look like?

The Real Meaning Of Health

Some of you may be sat there thinking that a healthy lifestyle means a lifestyle of restriction. But it isn’t! A healthy lifestyle is about taking care of you and your body. The real meaning of health isn’t about a weight on a scale, it’s about the happiness of you and your body.

For me, this means:

I don’t  ‘cut’ anything out of my diet; I strive to add as much as possible

In the past I thought to be healthy I had to cut out food groups like carbohydrates, I thought I should avoid sugar at all costs, and I should hold back from eating too much processed foods. Now, It’s all about adding as many colours, and as much variety into my diet as possible. I base my meals on lots of colourful veggies, and then I add a good balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. This way, I know I’m feeding my body and my gut with all of the good stuff. But there are no foods in my diet that are off limits, so of course, I’m still partial to choccy biccy, and may favorite ‘sticky toffee pudding’ when I want it.

I take my daily vitamins

I’ve always dabbled in and out of vitamins because I thought I could get all of my necessary vitamins from food.  Although I do try to get most of my vitamins and nutrients from food, It’s not always possible, due to the soils being depleted, and food being flow in from far away.  Since widening my knowledge on where food is grown and in what conditions, I now have my compulsory daily vitamins.

I workout to gain strength and fitness, not to lose weight

At one time I could never fully understand why anyone would go to the gym if it weren’t to loose weight. This became damaging to my health when I hit my lowest point of anorexia. Once I shifted my mindset from losing weight on the scale to adding weight to the bar, it really changed my life. I now enjoy so many different types of exercise, and did the unexpected and ran my first half marathon 2 weeks ago.

I stopped feeling like I had to be everywhere at once and took more time to rest and practice mindfulness

In the world we live in today, It’s so easy to feel like you’re doing something wrong if you’re sitting still. I’ve learnt to welcome ‘stillness’ into my life and give my self-time to switch off and sit with my thoughts. I’ve found that by doing this, I have been way more productive and been a well-rounded happier, healthier person.

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Victoria Niamh Spence

Victoria Niamh Spence

Writer and expert