To follow up on my previous post on how we confuse Health, Beauty & Fitness, using them as synonyms, I want to dive into defining each value. I started this post and have re-written it several times, so it is proving difficult to define these three things, so I’m going to roll with what I have and hopefully it will help prompt you with your own definitions.
Starting with Health.
As defined by the WHO (World Health Organization) – Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
This is a broad definition and we will need to pick it apart, so let’s try. If there is one thing we should be able to all agree upon it is that Healthy does not look the same on everybody. The last part of the WHO’s definition may be the only universal part of the definition, meaning that the absence of disease or infirmity (even though it only says Health is not just merely the absence of) is required to be considered Healthy, right?
Well not necessarily, it depends on who you talk to and where you do your researching. Even a quick google search leads to an endless list of resources from Wikipedia to the CDC, that lump together Infectious diseases, medical conditions (such asthma, allergies, lice, etc.) and even Psychological differentials.
Ok, so let’s go back further, in middle english the word disease means the ‘lack of ease’ or ‘inconvenience’ so the very word is extremely board and reaching.
The allergies and asthma I have had my entire life by the above definition would mean I am not considered Healthy. I now need glasses when using a screen due to my astigmatism and slight near sighted-ness, again not Healthy.
Another quick gander of research and you will uncover a slew of professional athletes in the prime of their careers and lives, that died of Heart Attacks. The one that always stuck with me and coloured my understanding of Heart Health was that of Sergei Grinkov, the two time Olympic skating champion that died at age 28, while practicing with his wife. It was discovered after his death that he had Heart Disease, that it ran in his family, his father had died four years prior of the same condition.
Genetic pre-dispositions are things that are completely out of our control, yet they affect our ability to be classified as truly Healthy and can unreasonably lead to judgement by others.
There are communicable diseases that we have created vaccines for such as Measels, Mumps and Rubella. Yet there is a strong contingent that believe taking a vaccine will render you un-Healthy, that if we just eat well, exercise, sleep enough you can beat these diseases.
There is no scientific proof that this is correct – COVID although worst for the elderly and those that have compromised immune systems still took the lives of those that appeared perfectly ‘Healthy’ although perhaps they had unknown genetic pre-dispositions, which without COVID would have been consider Healthy for a much longer time.
What about Narcissists? It is a personality disorder but I wouldn’t say it is inconvenient or creates lack of ease for the individual; they don’t know any better, in fact it enables people to completely ignore others wants and needs. Sounds pretty self serving and possibly even convenient. But is this Healthy? I am getting a bit off track.
This week the goal is to define Health, which includes Mental Health and to me that starts with the ability to accept yourself as you are, regardless of pre-dispositions or others’ opinions, perceptions, etc.
Is it Healthy to be so competitive that you will train yourself into exhaustion? That you control your diet to the extent that you weigh every meal, or count every calorie. Stressing over a missed workout, or maybe having a day, a week, a month of indulgences? Is a need for control Healthy? What toll does the goal of Physical Health take on our Mental Health.
Resiliency and Self Love are key to Mental Health, being able to feel safe, to be everything that you are, is required.
Without that safety, those that suffer from Mental Health concerns such as depression, anxiety, Autism, ADHD, Chromosomal disorders and other psychological disorders will always feel out of place and unable to access help for fear of judgement.
How do you view Health? Do you separate Physical and Mental Health? What, if anything, has the above made you rethink? What are some questions you can start asking yourself and others?
Now let’s explore Beauty.
Beauty shows up in so many different areas of our lives and in our society. From art, theatre, music, fashion, architecture, nature and humanity.
Beauty by definition, Oxford languages, is a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.
I remember reading the 1996 issue of People’s Sexiest Man Alive featuring Denzel Washington, I’m pretty sure it was that issue and timeline fits, as I remember reading it at the Orthodontist office. Any who, part of the article describes how we, as in humans, find symmetry to be beautiful. Denzel, has incredibly symmetrical features, eyes, nose, mouth, etc. It also showed other celebrities and the break down of of their features and the percentage of symmetry to people that found them ‘Beautiful’.
When looking at a piece of art, do you dissect it? Does the symmetry bias apply? Does how it makes you feel matter more?
Part of Beauty to me is how something makes you feel – like with a beautiful song, the emotions that a tune can stir within someone are incredible. Similar with a beautiful painting, we can’t always put into words what exactly we like but we can usually articulate how we feel when viewing it.
Seeing the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids of Giza, (privileges I have yet to experience but I can imagine), and the Louvre. What draws us to these and other monuments? The sheer size, maybe. The human feat of construction, probably. The feeling of wonder, awe and accomplishment of creating such Beauty, definitely.
I live in Alberta, close to the Rocky Mountains, and I never cease to be amazed when driving near Canmore all the way until past Revelstoke. The mountains, the terrain, the expansiveness is unreal. Even the prairies, the drive to Saskatoon with the ever popping up Canola fields with their yellow blooms, can be breathtaking. Similarly the ocean and all the wondrous unknown that it holds has colours and beauty that is hard to describe. Bioluminescence anyone?
How is it when we apply the concept of beauty to fellow Humans we start with a list of desirable characteristics instead of that same feeling?
Slim bodies, hard bodies, tone bodies, big boobs, small waist, peachy bum, long eyelashes, nails done (fake or real), clothes on point, tall but not too tall, short but not too short, justtttt right.
How do you view Beauty in your life? How does you perception of beauty apply or affect how you live your life? Where would you rank Beauty as a value?
Lastly let’s define Fitness.
Well interestingly but not surprisingly there are several different ways to apply the term Fitness – I like the Oxford languages, because they are easy to find and provide options so here is what comes up when we look at Fitness –
- the condition of being physically fit and healthy.”disease and lack of fitness are closely related”
- the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task.”he had a year in which to establish his fitness for the office”
- BIOLOGY: an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment.plural noun: fitnesses“if sharp teeth increase fitness, then genes causing teeth to be sharp will increase in frequency
If those aren’t some mind f*cks (pardon the language) than I don’t know.
Fitness, as in being physically fit and healthy, is interesting because it goes right into the concept of disease that we looked at earlier in this post and have determined that it’s really hard to narrow people down to the one piece.
Again a reminder of all the Elite athletes that have been found to suffer from pre-dispositions. The other factor I want to bring into this arena is the idea of performance enhancing drugs and the sheer number of high performance athletes found to be using them.
Would this fit into disease? According to many it would. The argument that addiction is a desire for connection, which I can accept and wrap my head around at times does not apply in this instance; the use of performance drugs is not for connection it is to get a leg up. This then would fall into the category of disease for me, because the idea of taking them is to separate yourself from peers not join in with them.
What would be your acceptable Physical Fitness level in your life? Keep in mind, I will dive into the societal and bigger picture of why we stay fit in the next post. What I want right now is for you to define what Physical Fitness looks like to you.
Is it the ability to walk up stairs without losing your breath? Is it being able to run 10km? A marathon? Is it being able to lift your kids/grandkids into seats. Is it being able to attend a yoga class and not be sore for a week after? Define what Physical Fitness is for you.
Now here is where my mind got a little f*ed – I hadn’t even thought of Fitness in terms of our roles within organizations and social structure but it’s there.
As mentioned above I really want to dive into this next week but my thoughts on this level of Fitness, or more so the question to pose here is have you ever had bias of ‘Fitness’? Meaning have you written off candidates for jobs due to the clothes someone is wearing or their appearance? Have you written off someone because of their weight or body shape? Have you thought someone might not be a fit because of their background?
I remember my friend’s Dad once told me that I would never be able to run a half marathon, we were watching his daughter (whom is crazy talented runner), run one of her first races. I think I was 22/23 years old at the time and thought that he was right, in that I couldn’t run the way she did. She is the human embodiment of a Gazelle, but, I could (and subsequently have) run a Half Marathon.
His perception was based on bias, and the man in particular is one of the kindest people I know so I really don’t think he meant offence, he was just being what he thought was honest and supportive of his child.
When I read this post to my partner he mentioned that this second definition was the one he most thought to when considering Fitness, whereas to me it was the least. Perhaps it’s because I accept that there are things that not everyone is capable of but that doesn’t mean they aren’t ‘Fit’ in the overall sense. Where he views it as a task specific definition. Do you view Fitness as task specific or general, broad term? Or maybe both, because as I said not everyone can do anything. That doesn’t make them less valuable just not the ‘Fit’ for a certain thing. Does viewing it as a task only definition lead to more bias and prejudice? Thoughts?
So let’s look at the last part, the Biology, ‘an organisms ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment’.
Survive, not thrive being the goal but also reproduce, does this mean anyone that has trouble reproducing may not be considered Fit from a biological stand point? Given that 1 in every 8 couples struggle with conception, I am really hoping not. There are many individuals that may not be able to conceive themselves yet are amazingly Fit and vice versa lots of people conceive that many would not consider Fit.
What about Mental Fitness? What would one consider Mentally fit? Does one need to experience trauma to prove their ability to be mentally fit? Does trauma help build our mental fitness or hurt it?
Are you familiar with the saying ‘God only gives you that which you can handle.’? But why? And why are some more capable than others? Is this something you consider when thinking of Fitness.
Again the importance is to recognize each individuals definition of the concept of Fitness differs. That these definitions should be challenged and are not one size fits all. I would hazard a guess that those who devote a lot of their time and energy to physical activity are doing so to more than merely survive. They do so to thrive and feel as though they are making the most of their physical bodies. Are they taking the same level of care of the Mental Fitness?
I said it at the start and I will say again that even defining these was going to be hard. If you think you have some concrete ideas please share, share even half baked ones.
Next week will probably be an extra long one, or I might even break it into two. What I hope to do is connect the dots, to show how these are made to inter connect within our social structure (I mean just look at the WHO’s definition or Health).
I will also hopefully help with the connection, understanding of how we prioritize these in our lives (so ya, definitely at least two posts). I aim to provide ways to draw inward to reflect and be honest, learning to align your values with how you live in the world. Whoa! That’s some big stuff so you know don’t get your hope too high, it will promise to be ranty as ever and possibly even more so than usual.
Until then… send me a note let me know what you think? Questions, etc.