For the month of April, I'm participating in the Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge from Wego Health. Each day I'll be writing a health-related post based on the HAWMC prompts, aiming to challenge myself as a writer and health activist. Thanks for following!
"It's not the shape of your body, but the shape your body is in."
This wonderful quote comes from Richard Wittberg, PhD, Executive Director of the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department and health activist. I heard him say this on a free podcast I like to listen to from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity (all episodes available through iTunes U). The podcast offers some wonderful and insightful views on the growing health concerns in the States but also around the Western world, and how diet and exercise play into this. Dr Wittberg was a guest on an episode about BMI, Fitness, and Academic Achievement in Children. He said the above quote when asked to sum up his views on this particular issue, and it completely resonated with me.
One of the main ways we as humans assess the health of another is by looking at their physical appearance. Do they look strong or weak? Are they tall or short? Fat or thin? Pale or dark? Smiling or frowning? Hairy or bald? All of these play a role in how we size up others. But how accurate is this in evaluating their health status?
The only one of those criteria I'd argue is crucial to health is the strength or weakness a person possesses. Going by the numbers isn't all it's cracked up to be: we each have a unique genetic makeup and lifestyle. A thin person might look great by supermodel standards, but what we might not see is her severe nutrient deficiencies, emotional issues, caffeine or drug addictions, or compromised digestion. Likewise, take a look at a female shot putter this summer at the Olympics. They don't look like the typical image of "athlete" to us. But underneath that bulk, necessary for their chosen sport, is a healthy and strong woman with the ability to chuck a heavy metal ball 75 feet. Now that's an athletic performance.
Next time you're having a "fat day" or are comparing yourself to whoever's gracing the cover of Cosmo this month (or GQ if you're a dude), focus your attention on your insides - how is your health? How can you improve your mood? How can you make sure you get plenty of vitamins and minerals today? What will it take to make you FEEL good?
Once you feel good, you'll look great.