When working with clients, one of the first things we do is set up goals. To be effective, a goal must be (among other things) specific and measurable. While a goal of “I want to get healthy,” might sound reasonable, what does that really mean? It gets even more complicated when you start talking about how to get there by asking, “Is a Paleo diet healthy?” or getting advice like, “You need to lift heavy to be healthy!” we throw this word around and accept it at face value, but how are we really defining “healthy?”
I hadn’t even noticed that I, myself, didn’t have a specific, measurable definition for it until I came across this proposed definition by commenter Mr J on a pretty mind-numbing pissing match about why legumes are horrible for you and, thus, not Paleo:
“The definition of healthy may boil down, in simplistic terms, to a psychological definition of happiness and a physiological output of longevity.”
I love this definition. Here’s why:
Health looks different for all of us. Too often, when people talk about “healthy,” they conflate that with “fastest fat/weight loss,” but there are plenty of folks who don’t need to paying a price on the happiness scale for fat loss, if the fat they carry is not enough to have a physiological impact on longevity. Some of the happiest, most long-lived cultures on the planet have grain- and plant-based diets and engage in regular endurance activity– they simply don’t, for the purpose of getting to happiness and longevity, need to be reducing carbs or upping protein and Olympic lifting to realize a body composition change– by this definition, what they are doing is “healthy.”
Then, there are others for whom the fat they carry or lack of endurance impacts their ability to play soccer with their kids or get through a full song at karaoke (happiness) and most definitely can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, etc. (longevity.) For them, getting on a program that gets them to a place of reasonable body fat ASAP does have the greatest impact on health, so a program really hyper-focused on body composition changes would, indeed, be “healthiest.”
I also love that this definition allows for the fact that there is no singular place of “healthy,” even for each of us as individuals as our bodies and interests change. As our life situations and bodies change, the way “healthy” looks for us also changes, so it’s worth tuning up your program every 5 years or so to be sure it’s still getting you to your healthiest place.
With this specific, measurable definition of health, we are armed with the measuring stick to determine for ourselves which eating programs and exercise programs are most “healthy,” and can put into place more specific goals to strive for (ones that speak to happiness and longevity).
If you need help setting up a program that can get you closer to your healthy, please get in touch with us at FitFight Training Center. We’d love to help!
We’d also love to hear how you define healthy… maybe you’ve got something more brilliant than the random internet commenter that inspired this post.