What is Health?

“Health” is a frequently used buzzword and it seems even more so in the past several months. Heck, it’s half the name of our clinic. To step back and look at it from a broader perspective, it seems there is a very wide spectrum of what folks deem is “healthy.” Most are very passionate about their viewpoint for good reason. 

We are living subjects in a massive social experiment never before performed. Because everything is so new, it is still difficult to determine what is right or wrong. While we could argue all of the different stances ad nauseum, I’ll leave that for the social media forums. The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle.

What’s interesting to look at are the arguments back and forth centered on what is “most healthy” or what is “best for our health”. There is no universal, objective, commonly-agreed-upon definition for “health”. How then, can we argue about the details/foods/activities that are “most healthy” when we don’t even have a centering definition of health? People or groups could be arguing back and forth, while their point of reference is in two entirely different places. I don’t necessarily think that everybody is going to agree on what that actual point of reference of “health” is, but I do think that there may be more common ground on the topic. 

I’m not trying to start a deep, philosophical, round-in-circles debate. However, it’s useful to think about when considering those “healthy” recommendations. And I’m also not so naive to think that everybody contemplates the topic of health in such detail. Many individuals just want to go about their lives (work, hobbies, family, friends) and don’t even think about health unless it gets in the way of what they want to do. 

It’s all relative. Health for some individuals is simply the absence of disease or illness. They don’t think twice about donuts, soft drinks and cigarettes and consider that they are “healthy” as long as they aren’t battling a cold or flu. They likely don’t consider cigarettes healthy, but may consider themselves “healthy” even if they do smoke, as long as they can do what they want to do throughout the day.

The other extreme lies more towards meticulous calorie counting, obsessing over the proper macronutrient ratios, and devoting hours per day on working out and not missing their mobility, strength, and cardio routines. Unhealthy to them may be indulging in an occasional bowl of ice cream or missing a portion of their workout. 

Where on the spectrum of health do the variants of eating disorders, compulsive exercising, or continuously sacrificing a full night’s sleep to squeeze in that early morning workout fall? What about the aspects we can’t see or necessarily objectively track such as mental health? Social health? Spiritual health? 

Debating what’s best for one’s health isn’t so easy as a one-size-fits all approach… especially when we don’t have that commonly agreed upon definition of health.

Now, for my “biased” perspective: 

Health isn’t an all-or-nothing state of being. It is an ever changing spectrum, or sliding scale. Where you are on this spectrum is going to change from day to day based on a variety of factors. These factors include the commonly thought about such as our diet and activity levels. But even those can have variances. What about the desk jockey that gets their 45 minute workout and then sits at a desk for 8 hours and the couch all night compared to the construction worker that gets no “formal” workout at the gym but busts their tail all day? Then you have the less-thought-about factors such as stress levels, sleep deficits, social health and status of our relationships with co-workers and loved ones, mental health, and spiritual health. These are not as easy to track as counting calories or pounds on a scale or minutes spent exercising. But they have just as much of an impact on our overall health and they are commonly neglected. Similar to a poor diet or sedentary lifestyle, the effects aren’t always immediately seen but have a cumulative effect on our health status. 

Everybody is different depending on their individual circumstances. There are obviously going to be factors that you can control, and others that are out of your control. It isn’t realistic for a parent feeding an infant to get a solid straight 8 hours of sleep. We don’t have the ability to choose when life throws us a curveball or a traumatic event. However, taking a step back and looking at whether where we are at on the health spectrum compares to where we would like to be is a good place to start. 

Start with this question: Is your current situation sustainable? 

Sometimes the areas for improvement are apparent, but other times we need help to identify challenges and blind spots that are preventing change. And sometimes, the problem isn’t a lack of information but a  lack of strategy and support to create sustainable change.

If you’re unsatisfied with your current health status or interested in learning where you may have blind spots in your awareness, we are here to help.

We’ll look at your unique journey and build your health profile based on all of the factors that can impact your health. We will help you put that into perspective with your goals. When needed, advanced testing is ordered  Coulee Health will soon be offering health coaching services. This will not only help implement manageable changes into your life, but provide you an accountability partner who can help you break big goals into small steps. 

Let us help you move further toward the “healthy” end of the spectrum… whatever that looks like for you!

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