What does Health even mean?
Attempting an article on overall health is a tough one, everyone has a different idea as to what this means. I will attempt to tackle it from an evidence based and government guideline point of view.
I will start with a personal experience. As a teenage I was chubby, I was always active though. I was on the netball team, cross country team and walked to and from school every day. I would say if I didn’t do these things, I would have been a lot bigger. My relationship with food was awful and I had no idea about nutrition. It wasn’t a thing like it is now. From being a teenager, I would binge, mostly on chocolate but also crisps. It was in the family, both my sister and me used to sit there devouring all this food in the evening and it didn’t stop for me until my 20’s. I remember my first diet. I ate 1000 calories per day, spent 60 minutes in the gym doing only cardio machines, never lifted a weight in my life as they made you bulky, I also worked in a job where I was on my feet 9 hours a day. It’s fair to say I lost a couple of stone very easily in a short space of time. My nutrition was so poor I had bad spot breakouts and my hormones where out of whack but I still binged and I thought I was fat. I was a stone underweight and was lucky to still be getting my period. My relationship with food was not good! I had never heard of quinoa or a complex carb. I healthy meal for me was a low-calorie ready meal from Marks and Spencers.
I could go on and on about the different diets I’ve tried over the years, same as many I’m sure, weight watchers, slimming world, keto, Atkins, intermittent fasting none of which actually promoted health eating. I mean, come on, you can eat unlimited Muller light yoghurts depending on the colour of the day. It’s no wonder we are all confused about what we can eat. Don’t even get me started on exercising makes you fat!! I have lost weight, gained weight, had a baby, been healthy, been unhealthy, drank too much alcohol, stopping drinking alcohol, over exercised, under exercised.
Fast forward 15 years and I am a qualified nutritionist and I am still trying to find that balance just like everyone else. I have learnt that health is not just about your number on the scales and that there is so much more involved.
So, what does Healthy mean?
There are 6 facets of health:
Social - This is your lifestyle, your social life, being part of a community, sense of purpose would come under this facet
Physical – this can be aesthetic, activity and movement, health goal, nutrition
Emotional – spiritual health, your thoughts, feelings and behaviours
Economical – what resources you have, for example your financial situation
Intellectual – Your education
Psychological – your mental health
I could break these down one by one but I fear I will lose you so instead I would like to talk about the blue zones as we are on the subject of overall health.
There are 5 blue zones across the world. This means these places have the highest concentration of people living to the age of 100 +. They are the healthiest people on the plant.
What you will notice if you clicked on the link is that none of the blue zones are vegan, low carb or fasting for 16 hours. Instead they eat probably 90% plant-based food including fresh fruit and vegetable, legumes, some fresh fish and good quality meats. Pretty balanced eh?
The blue zones are not the healthiest in the world just because of diet. This is what they are doing:
High physical activity
Sense of community and purpose – friends/family
Low stress and good mental health
Balance approach to nutrition
Very little alcohol or moderate
Good amount of sun exposure – vitamin D – I notice they are all coastal locations
Should we be taking a leaf out of the blue zones book? Is it achievable? I personally like the sound of it and I think there are lots of things we can take from what they do. I think we do try.
I have days where I feel like I am smashing through life, it’s all in control then other days where I am balancing all the plates and couple might fall and then it’s all out of whack.
I think striving for balance has a lot to answer for too!
What is balance? Home/work life balance. Energy balance. Getting enough sleep. Moderate alcohol intake. Taking your own time but also being there for your family and friends. It’s all so over whelming isn’t it? I sometimes think striving for balance equals striving for perfection which I am certainly guilty of and then it can affect your anxiety.
Maybe if we aim to master a facet at a time, forming habits before moving on to the next facet.
All the facets link in someway too. For example, physical activity links with social a sit can increase your mood and confidence.
The take away from this is that Health is so broad and not just about the food we eat and what we weigh, there is a lot more to think about. We always go straight to food when we attempt to be healthier but let try to get more sleep, or increase our activity, make a new friend!