How Do You Define Healthy?

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Me: Before (Circa 2007) and Now

Me: Before (Circa 2007) and Now

I am a mother of three beautiful girls. I am a wife of seven years. I weigh 138 lbs. I am 5’5″. I am a runner. I run three times a week. I do yoga. I use natural remedies for aches and pains. I eat a decently balanced variety of foods. I only eat whole grains. I try to avoid artificial sweeteners and dyes. I select organic and non-GMO products as much as possible and I eat as clean and real as is feasible without consuming highly processed foods. My normal resting blood pressure is 95/65.

I think it is safe to say that I am healthy.

Or am I?

Would someone else be healthier if they did exactly as I but weighed 5 lbs less? Or if we did the same but she were a D cup and wore a size 6? (I’m a B cup and wear a size 10.) What if they weighed 10 lbs more than I but ran 5 times a week instead of my 3?

What exactly is “healthy?” Good ole Webster defines it as:

adjective in good health

Well, geeze, thanks Webster. That helps us… umm, NOT AT ALL!

Being healthy is part of my world now. It is my goal to make sure my children don’t become one of the nearly 20% of America’s youth suffering from childhood obesity. Furthermore, I myself want to live to see my girls get married, have babies of their own and for THAT generation to grow up healthy too.

I haven’t always been this way. My top weight in 2007 was 185 lbs. My idea of working out was going for walks with my husband. I *thought* I was eating healthy but in turn, I was scarfing down at least 3000 calories of high sodium, low nutrient processed junk. I went on more diets than I can even remember. I was clearly less healthy than I am now but just how unhealthy was I?

A few weeks ago, one of my Twitter followers wrote:

“When I was 20, I did the elliptical 4x a week faithfully for an hour. I ate sensibly. I was a size 7. I also smoked a pack a day, drank at least 10 (20?) vodka/diet cokes and whatever shots I was brought each week, tanned regularly & took Metabolife when I had the money. But I was small and fun and pretty so I was ‘healthy.’ But was I?”

She brings up an extremely valid point. When comparing her old self to my old self, which would you side with as healthier? Smoking and drinking? Or overweight and malnutrition?

My good friend Kristen King recently became a health and wellness coach and has a little to say about this topic too:

Both in working with clients and managing my own health, I’ve found that diet is responsible for about 80% of your outcome; exercise accounts for the other 20%. Exercise is good for everyone, but if your diet is terrible, no amount of exercise in the world will guarantee good health. Whether you work out or not, shoot for a balanced diet. That means about 50% carbs, 30% protein, and 20% fat, plus at least 25 grams of fiber a day. This is what your body needs to function—and it’s why diet regimens that cut out or severely limit all fats or carbs are not healthy or sustainable.

Most people find that when they are eating a balanced, nutrient-dense diet, it’s easier to manage calories and to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Along with that, they often find that their overall health and well-being improve. It’s astonishing how many “medical problems” are actually diet problems! When you fix your diet, the medical issues resolve or dramatically lessen.

I struggle with eating enough protein each day, but meal planning helps me stay on track. I keep a lot of healthy protein snacks on hand, like low-fat string cheese, nut butters, and humus so there’s not a lot of thought required to grab something that’s both delicious and full of nutrition. As an independent Herbalife distributor and wellness coach, I try to help my clients develop a structure and a go-to list of meals and snacks so it’s easy to make healthy choices throughout the day. I offer free wellness coaching and a nutrition and exercise journal as well to help people make sure their lifestyle supports their health goals.

So what do you think? What defines “healthy?”

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About Heather Campbell

I'd like to say I'm fun and interesting, but that all depends on who you talk to. I have everything I've ever wanted. I've been married, mostly happily since 2006. Together we have a spunky redhead and giggly identical twins. I am a mom/homemaker, doula-in-training and a freelance writer. Our story is magical. Our life is chaos.

59 responses »

  1. Pingback: Blogelina’s Commentathon – Group #3 | Blogelina

  2. This is a great line: “It’s astonishing how many “medical problems” are actually diet problems!”…I’m glad that there is becoming more and more awareness around this…what is healthy? I think feeling good, sleeping well, and having energy to get through your day. I think the problem is that these things slip away from us so gradually that most people don’t realize how much better they could feel. 🙂

    Dawn from http://www.ithinkwecouldbefriends.com

  3. I’ve recently have taken a more active roll in being aware of what I’m choosing to eat. I’m within the weight “guidelines” for my gender, age, height but can see the muffin top beginning to form. Thank you for the informative post.

  4. Healthy isn’t the same for each person, you are right. But the basics for being healthy are the same. Find the “bad” habits and slowly weed them out. Find healthy foods you enjoy, stick to them. Incorporate exercise in ways that always challenge you, if it’s not a challenge, it’s probably not good exercise. It’s great to have healthy habits, but being able to challenge your comfort should be the goal. And there is nothing wrong with cheat days! But there is no need to compare that is for sure, no one needs that, it simply isn’t healthy 😉

  5. My husband and I have been on a journey for a long time now to find the “perfect” lifestyle. We’ve come to the conclusion that it comes down to being balanced. We strive for the best we can do and be and don’t worry about when we’re not quite able to do our best. As long as we’re moving forward we’re making progress.

  6. Ugh. Despite a clean bill of health at my check-up two weeks ago, I am definitely NOT healthy. How could I be? I am 70 pounds overweight, drink too much wine, drink maybe a little too much caffeine, and definitely don’t eat nearly as healthy as I should. Given that, did my doctor speak to me about my weight? Nope. Why didn’t she? I know I’m not healthy, but I really needed her to tell me to lose weight (even though it hurts to hear it). Thanks for pointing out what my doctor should have. Now to go do something to be healthier…

    • Our health care system is so screwed up. I went through years of infertility and two miscarriages and not one doctor out of all my specialists said “Hey, you are overweight. That could be affecting this.” Instead it took my husband going in for a sinus infection and his doctor (after having not seen him for a good 5 years) said “Wow, you certainly have grown, I’m concerned that you actually fall into the obese category now.” My husband is tall, wore a tight 38 waist at the time. We had no idea that we were unhealthy. It’s been a long journey but the best thing we’ve ever done. Good luck!

  7. I am overweight. However, I exercise 6 times a week. I get enough sleep. I have a great relationship with my husband and other people. People can look at me and judge, but I feel pretty healthy.

  8. I think my issue is the fiber. I never get as much as I can…also proteins. I am starting to read more about nutrients and macros and will be incorporating those numbers in my nutrition plan soon!

  9. I think many people battle this. Over the past year, I’ve gotten much better in what I eat and how I do it etc. I still have a ways to go. But I’ve started losing weight and I’m feeling better. The thing a lot of people don’t realize is it takes time. Too many people are into the fad diets. I’m not a nutritional person or health professional, but I’ve found over time the best way to do it is old fashioned elbow grease — a healthy way of eating and exercise. It’s not a secret, but most people would rather do the schemes!

  10. It’s all about balance and common sense. Post-menopause I’m a bit more ‘fluffy’ than I used to be. I am working on decreasing my portions at meal time just a bit, increasing my daily activity level, and no more bedtime snacks. This seems to be a good program for me. I agree with what your friend said “a balanced, nutrient-dense diet [makes it] easier to manage”.
    Great post! I pray you have a long and healthy life and make it to see your daughter married – that is a very special thing 🙂

  11. I think healthy means more than how much you weight and how much you exercise. Being mentally healthy is super important too. I need to work on exercising more and loosing weight. I think I eat pretty healthy, just too much. Especially breads and potatoes!

  12. I guess health can mean a lot of things – most of all your state of mind. But I would agree with the food. I try to cook from a diabetic cook book (my hubby is diabetic). We don’t exercise, although we really should. So… I’m not sure if I am really as healthy as I want to be. When my babes is older maybe I can start exercising again.

  13. Great post. I’ve been doing major rehab for spinal cord surgery, so I know what healthy isn’t. Healthy is energy, good blood work and the ability to walk three miles and enjoy it. Those are my goals and I’m working towards them.

  14. For me, healthy = good digestive health, energy, regular (if still somewhat gentle) exercise, and good relationships. The first one is fueled by nutritious, fiber-rich meals. I’m not where I want to be weight-wise…but I am moving there slowly and steadily.

    Good points!

  15. Healthy is what is right for your genetics as well. My family has a history of hip replacements and heart disease. I modify my diet and eliminate meat and I try to do yoga to make sure my hips stay strong. Amy @Wholesomelifefitness

  16. One of the things I tell my students all the time is that you can’t out exercise an unhealthy eating plan. We should also consider our mental and emotional wellbeing when seeking good health.

  17. I think “healthy” has to do with mind and body, and the mind part is just as important as the body part. so much of it is tied together!

  18. The older I get, the more I want to look after my body and like you, my view of health has changed. I’m also more motivated to look after myself and the power of wanting to be a role model to my kids helps keep me on track too. I agree with another commenter, that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.

  19. I’ve always considered myself pretty healthy too. Other than the fact I know I am overweight, not obese by any means. I don’t have to take medications daily. If I could just get me foot healed, which has been a problem when it comes to working out for about 8 years now, was committing to going out and walking every day after dropping kids off at school and then my stupid foot got hurt again, and I am faced with having to do stuff that won’t make it worse. the healthy eating I’ve got down pretty good, we only eat whole wheat breads and limit those (I’m a carb addict so this was a tough one). Baby steps is key for me!

  20. This really is a tough one. I’m 5’1″ and about 118 pounds. Most people who see me would say I’m thin and healthy. But I hardly ever exercise and my eating habits aren’t that great. (Two things I’m working on.) I guess I’m a woman who appears more healthy than she is.

  21. Food is thy medicine! We are on the same wavelength Heather. No matter what, if you don’t feed your body what it needs, it will have a difficult time being productive! Great post!

  22. You raise such excellent points! Health is holistic, not reflected in numbers like weight or clothing size. Being healthy is so much more. I love your message and I think it’s one we all need to hear more often! ~ Bobbi

  23. Hi Heather – I entered a comment previously, but, I think that for some reason it didn’t take. If you already have it, please disregard this one.

    The area I struggle with is the physical activity portion, and staying motivated to do it daily.

    Thanks for this post. Have a great day!

    • Doesn’t look like it doubled up. Thanks for giving it another try 🙂

      Daily activity is SO hard. I try to go a quick 25 squats and a few reps of ballet leg lifts in the shower each day. Then I work my runs into the schedule depending on naps and bedtime. I love doing yoga while my oldest is at school. Gives me a good meditation break midday. But really, just running errands, turning on the vacuum, mopping/sweeping etc all counts as daily activity. Wear some 2 lb ankle weights while cleaning to give it an extra boost 🙂

  24. I LOVE the points you are making! “Healthy” isn’t a magic number, and it is slightly different for everyone. There is always at least one more thing we could be doing to make ourselves “healthier” but as long as we have regular activity and a fairly balanced diet, we shouldn’t be beating ourselves up!

  25. I agree, diet is the most important component! I start each day with a protein shake. Healthy choices and serving size is my biggest struggle. You can read more about my journey and the changes I made under “Getting Healthy” on my blog.

  26. Healthy is such a hard word to define. But, I will say, what you take into your body ultimately defines they health of your body. If you take in nothing but junk and processed food, instead of wholesome foods, then no, I don’t believe you are healthy. At least you won’t be in good health for long.

  27. To be healthy, I try to eat well – meaning not too many sweets, fats, and processed foods. However, since having a second baby, I find it is hard to always cook from scratch so the processed foods sneak in a bit. Having kids is a good motivator though. Like you, I think about the example I am setting and about wanting to be around to be a grandmother. I do think we have to be forgiving with ourselves though. If I have a “bad” eating day, I forgive myself and try to be better the next day.

  28. Defining ‘healthy’ can be very subjective. On one end is the junk food eater who does no exercise and on the other is the person who appears to do everything right but gets a heart attack. Educating ourselves and applying best wellness practices as you noted can offer a measure of protection. Enjoyed reading!

  29. Hi Heather! It’s so true that just because someone looks “healthy” doesn’t mean they are! I think it’s important to remember mental health as well, and taking care of ourselves emotionally and relationally so that our stress level doesn’t get out of control. Congrats on changing your lifestyle! I know running must make you feel great!

  30. There are so many ways to define healthy. It’s a matter of internal workings as well as weight. I am overweight but definitely healthier than a lot of skinny people I know. I think I’d rather have it this way, honestly.

    And then there’s the matter of mental health which is something completely different.

  31. I just wrote a post yesterday on being healthy and how I use to have to work so LITTLE at it and now the pounds are just a creeping on. It’s tough, eating right and working out. There seems to be not enough hours in the day, but I’ve come to realize it’s one of those things we need to prioritize.

    craftingafairytale.blogspot.com

  32. It’s honestly difficult to define what “healthy” is because there are so many different perspectives in my opinion. I consider myself to be pretty healthy and so do all of my doctors. The only “problem” is that I’m over weight, but I also don’t want to get so skinny that I’m nothing but skin and bones either because that’s also considered unhealthy. In my opinion, you have to figure out what’s right for you, not what’s right for everyone else. You should, at least, be healthy in your own eyes and feel comfortable enough to be yourself.

    • I remember having that fear of skin and bones when I was overweight. I dropped 50 lbs and I still am nowhere close to it. But I went years believing that I was simply full figured and big boned because it was implanted in my mind from society’s double standard and having two obese parents.

      Overall though, you are right. Healthy is in the eye of the beholder.

  33. Spot on Heather. A great post. I agree with most people here. Healthy isn’t a number, it is doing the right things for your body. Some people say it is having a healthy mind. I think that having a healthy mind is a by product of a healthy body. If your mind is healthy but you are overweight and not eating well or exercising a little then you are still unhealthy.

  34. Pingback: I Eat Organic and I Shop at Walmart… Not Here to Save the World | Magical Chaos

  35. Pingback: Etiquette from a Running Mom | Our Magical Chaos

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