7 out of 10 Americans say they want to “be healthy” at any given point in time. Are you one of them?
What does “healthy” mean to you? Is it a strict diet? Lots of fruits and veggies? A stellar blood pressure? Eating only raw or organic? The perfect fit body? Being OK with your body? “Healthy” has a loose definition–depending on who you ask. The true definition? Only YOU can decide…
I used to hear that word and automatically think:
- Pleasantly plump.
- NO WAY, NO HOW!
Prior to these connotations with the word “healthy”, in the thick of my eating disorder, “healthy” meant:
- The ability to push myself harder on the StairMaster and go longer without eating a bite
- Focusing on lower numbers on a scale, and less calories in my mouth
BUT, in my recovery journey, the word “healthy” drastically changed—based on what treatment and my treatment providers seemed to convey.
As I entered treatment center after treatment center, and hospital after hospital, I was brainwashed with a different version of “healthy.”
“Healthy” became synonymous with life in treatment:
- Twinkie challenges
- Ordering dessert at TGI Fridays on group restaurant challenges
- Choosing Oreos for snack over an apple and peanut butter
- Never working out—or opting only for yoga and walks
- Eating less salads, and more pasta
- Focusing on higher numbers on a scale and more calories in my mouth
In my mind, “healthy” meant being an “average American”: Eating processed foods and celebrating fast-food challenges and cheeseburgers.
“Unhealthy” meant anything associated with my former eating disorder ways, advice in a magazine, or popular book on the shelf.
And so I was conflicted…very conflicted. Healthy really didn’t seem to have a clear definition.
I knew my eating disorder’s version of “healthy” was not truly healthy—and I didn’t feel well or think well living in that world.
But I also didn’t fully align (or feel well) with many treatment experiences and hospitals’ versions of health.
- Both focused on food stigmas (Eating Disorder: “Fat is bad.” Treatment: “Salads are not a healthy choice.”)
- Both focused on food rules. (Eating Disorder: “No carbs after noon whatsoever.” Treatment: “This is what every meal should look like”.)
- Both focused on numbers and calories (Eating Disorder: “No more than 1200 calories per day”; Treatment: Even if I didn’t get to see my weight in treatment, my main progress was often judged on what I weighed).
“Healthy” is Completely Up to You
It’s no wonder I struggled for YEARS to determine a CLEAR UNDERSTANDING of healthy for me.
Living in one clouded extreme or another, although my treatment providers probably had the best of intentions, they were NOT speaking my language at all…In addition, they were completely out of touch with what I wanted for my life.
Although I was told in treatment I was working on my “recovery” and “getting healthy”—what the heck did this recovery thing really, really look like?
No one ever really defined it—or helped me dig deep to define it for myself.
It’s like telling a 5-year-old the work she’s doing in kindergarten is paving her way to college and her future (What the heck is college really to a 5-year-old?! She has no idea).
Who was I without ED in my life?
What did my daily life look like without all my waking hours spent thinking about food and exercise?
What was I going to do to feel good about myself or cope without ED?
And how the heck was I going to do that?!
Today, when I hear the word “healthy”, I hear the word: “Thriving”—a word I NEVER EVER heard UNTIL I really dug deep for myself and asked myself this question:
What do I WANT my life to look like? (In all aspects—physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, spiritually? In my fitness, relationship with food and my body? In my schedule and ways I spend my time? My money? My education?)
The secret to determining the meaning of “healthy”?
Getting clear vision.
Only I could define and determine what was healthy for me.
And ONLY YOU can define and determine what “healthy” means for YOU.
In my recovery, maybe “healthy” choices really meant things like:
- Being able to go to Whole Foods and eat something off the hot bar—even though I hated the thought of eating canola oil (and there’s canola oil in most everything on that hot bar)
- Going with the flow to whatever restaurant my friends chose—and finding something to nosh on
- Not having to call ahead to the hotel before I got there on vacation to find out where the closest gym was (going with the flow)
- Not packing my week’s worth of meals in my suitcase for that same vacation (again, going with the flow)
- Letting my mom cook dinner for my family—instead of me having to do it, or have a completely separate meal
- Experimenting with making a homemade almond butter cookies (it may not be a regular sugar cookie, but it was a cookie—a treat)
- Taking a bite of a thoughtfully-made cookie from a friend (even though I hated sugar)
- Not having to buy everything organic
- Being ok with less than an hour in the gym some days
- Being ok with an early morning meeting or 6 am flight that left me without my usual morning gym time
- Saying “No” instead of saying “Yes” to everything (i.e. people pleasing)
- Not buying the magazines or looking at the diet blogs online that triggered my own diet mentality
- Not being perfect
- Laughing…smiling…playing…being at peace…
Only YOU can determine what is healthy for you…and what thriving looks like in your life.
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