What does healthy really mean?

Image from weheartit.com

Yesterday a friend sent me a message asking me what exactly I meant by the word “healthy” on my blog.   If you would have asked me this question two years ago, I would have told you a healthy woman is somebody who is thin, strong and a hundred percent comfortable with her own body.  A healthy woman, I believed, was a person with complete control over her diet and weight, the type of women that you’d see on the cover of Women’s HealthMagazine.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that my very own definition of the word healthy was unhealthy.  I could never be thin or strong enough to fit the mold of healthy in my mind.  I repeatedly beat myself up for having doubts about my body and cravings for sugar.  After all a healthy women should not have these types of struggles with her body, right? 

When I first started this blog my main goal was to show my journey towards finding physical health.   However, it took me until my first wave of discouragement in my journey—gaining weight instead of losing weight on the scale— to realize that I was chasing after an ideal: a one size fits all mold created by our society to show how women should look, act, and feel. 

 I was overwhelmed and discouraged by the large gap between the girl that I felt that I was and the healthy girl I thought I wanted to be.   Would I ever be thin enough, strong enough, or confident enough in my own skin to be considered a healthy girl?   Even as my friends continuously praised me for my healthy lifestyle, would I myself ever truly feel healthy?
My friend's question made me think long and hard about my own definition of healthy and how it shaped the way I viewed others and myself.  What I realized is that my high expectations of the way healthy should look created self judgment and disappointment.  Rather than coming from a place of self love, I realized that my efforts to get fit and eat right were driven by guilt and shame for the way I viewed my body.  
According to Karly Randolph Pitman, "Our mind loves to go after perfection--and that includes self perfection--because it is trying to get us to a place where we feel like we're enough.  We've been taught to believe that this is the key to inner peace."
We believe that if we look and feel perfect enough we wil be happy and healthy.  Yet this mentality often leaves us feeling discouraged and empty when we fail to meet the high expectations we have set for ourselves.  Dana Faulds writes: "Perfection is not a prerequisite for anything but pain."
So I asked myself does healthy need to equal perfection?  Or can healthy mean embracing every part of ourselves and our bodies, both the good and the bad.  Can healthy mean accepting are own humanity and realizing that our imperfections are what make us interesting and unique individuals?  Can healthy mean setting realistic goals for fitness and diet that come from a place of love and compassion rather than guilt and shame?

Today I believe that healthy is a state of mind and that anybody can begin today.  I believe that there is room in a healthy lifestyle for mistakes and imperfections, and that I feel healthiest when I practice compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude.   Here are a few simple and easy things you start doing right now:
I realize that life is a series of decisions and choices we make each moment.  Sometimes we make choices that require us to forgive and learn from our past.  I believe that in these moments: we can either get discouraged and give up, or find the courage to get up and try again.   I hope that if you are feeling discouraged about your body or your current state of health that you will have the strength to keep moving foward, regardless of the setbacks you may face along the way.  I know it may seem impossible now.  But remember, a journey of 1000 miles begins with the first step.

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