What does it mean to be healthy?
What does it mean to live a healthy life?
I started to ask myself these questions once I got to be around 30 years old. My undergraduate degree from Auburn is called Health Promotion and my master’s degree is called Exercise Science and Health Promotion. It’s my job to promote health, and teach people how to be healthy. This is what I get paid for and what I love to do. I feel an ethical, financial, and moral responsibility to do this, to promote health.
Does being healthy mean eating a vegan diet? Being able to lift 200 pounds? 300 pounds? Does it mean being able to do an hour of yoga or mean being able to hike a frozen mountain? Does this make someone healthy? How about doing the Bike Ride Across Georgia, 420 miles from Atlanta to St Simons Island? I did this, did this indicate I’m healthy?
What if the doctor checks off a list and someone passes all 17 tests, does this mean the person is healthy? If I’m STD – free does that make me healthy? How about if my family gets along well, and we like each other. Does this mean we’re healthy?
If someone gives up Coke, and starts bad-mouthing sodas, does this indicate a healthy person? How about Crossfit, is this an indicator of health? Fit-bits? Barre class? Mixed Martial Arts? Marathons? Churchgoer? Marathoners? How about Zumba? I tried Zumba. It was fun.
Does someone who wins an athletic competition, a fitness competition, or who measures their caloric intake take the mantle for healthiness?
I’ve seen the paleo-dieters, the vegetarians, the anti-GMO crowd, the kosher, the meditators, Pilates practitioners, and heavy-hands walkers. I’ve seen the survivalists too. They all seem pretty healthy.
Does being free from disease make someone healthy? Can someone with a disease be healthy?
I have simple definition about what it means to be healthy. I came to this conclusion after my Grandpa passed away in 2007, and I percolated for a long time about what his life meant.
To be healthy means to define what is good in life and to try to live up to it.
Grandpa married young and stayed married. He served his country bravely. He helped out and contributed. He wasn’t a moocher. He loved. He hurt. He had integrity. He was committed. He was strong, morally and physically. He had honor- he tried to hold up the highest ideals of manhood and he cared about what other men thought of him. He had a sense of humor. He was simple and made mistakes. He was loyal to those closest to him. He had self-mastery- rarely getting overly emotional, or out of hand. He had a temper (or so I hear) but that was when he was younger. He was kind to everyone. He wasn’t big but no one messed with Grandpa. He had manners. He was humble, generous, and ascetic. He was a good man, but he was more than that, much more.
What’s this about? This is about values, about valuing what is good. Grandpa never studied “how to be healthy” but he understood what came first, before everything else. To say more than this would be an insult to my grandpa, Fred McCarty. I don’t care what the textbooks say, this is my definition of what it means to be healthy.
Winston Churchill drank and smoke cigars every day, but was one of the greatest and healthiest men to ever live. I know many more healthy men and women just like him.
Yes, someone with a disease can still be healthy, because being healthy is about values and nothing else. Someone who knows what’s right and values those things is healthy. And their life means something. It means more than they will probably ever know.