What is Good Health?

The phrase "good health" or "healthy" are thrown around a lot in modern media and every day conversation. But what does this really mean? For (perhaps too) many, it's about being the "correct" weight or constantly striving to lose weight. For other people, "healthy" might mean lack of illness, which certainly sounds like a good thing. Or, healthy can mean that someone eats a very careful diet and buys only organic or non-GMO foods and never touches refined sugar. This sounds pretty good too. But is it a sign of good health? Not necessarily.

Let's unpack some of these concepts. Can health be boiled down to a single indicator like weight or BMI (body mass index)? Often, popular media and even medical professionals will focus on these metrics and then make recommendations based on the "need" to increase or decrease weight. Is this the right choice? Well, maybe. But not in isolation. Someone with a higher than normal BMI might also be very athletic and carrying a lot of muscle, so their weight and BMI aren't indicative of excessive fat mass or some of the health risks that go along with that. Someone with a very low weight or BMI may be suffering from a serious disease or malnutrition. One single number just doesn't tell us enough.

What about the person that eats "clean" (one of my least favorite terms)? Are they in great health? Maybe, and maybe not. Do we know what their blood sugar levels are? Is their cholesterol high? Do they have a family history of heart disease? Do they sit for hours and hours at a time or have very little physical activity?  Eating a diverse and balanced diet IS really important to good health, but food/diet alone also doesn't tell a particularly rich story.

Similarly, the person that exercises daily and takes a multivitamin and drinks 2 gallons of water each day sounds pretty healthy, right? And they might well be. But is their life filled with extreme stress? Are they hitting the fast food drive-through daily and not getting much sleep? That certainly isn't goin to lead to long-term good health.

The bottom line is that good health (and maintaining it) isn't a single number. It's not a diet plan. You can't outrun bad health or an over-stressed lifestyle. A true healthy lifestyle includes a focus on eating well, exercise and activity, stress reduction, regular medical care/assessments and proper sleep. Sometimes we'll have to sacrifice one or the other, because let's face it life gets crazy. But we should always remember that good health isn't defined or created by a single action or metric. It's integrative. It's cumulative. And it's important.