You know how you see those infomercials on TV that say, “Before beginning any nutrition or exercise program consult with a physician?”. They should say, “Before you begin a nutrition or exercise program, figure out what healthy means to you.” Far too often, we let the media and society (the somedia) decide for us what healthy means.

Healthy is not a look

Between reality shows and news sound bites and the billion dollar weight loss industry, it is easy to think that body fat = unhealthy. People die from complications due to having too much fat. Although it may seem like semantics, hear me out. Illness comes when the fat keeps their bodies from functioning efficiently. Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, all of those illnesses scientifically linked to obesity (or too much body fat) occur when parts of your body starts to work overtime – your heart, your kidneys, your hormones. Body efficiency is not measured by a number on the scale. When you visit your doctor, they run all these tests – blood tests, urine tests, etc. and read very important numbers and say things like your blood sugar is high, which will make you sick. Your triglycerides are high, you need surgery. Research shows that fat is not a sole indicator of good health. The point is, consider what your idea of healthy is, and it may or may not have to do with the number on the scale.

Skinny does not equal healthy

We can improve our bodies’ efficiency by what we eat and how we move. I am not arguing with that. But weight loss is a side effect of living healthy, not the goal. There are “skinny” people whose bodies run inefficiently. Skinny people have heart disease, diabetes and high cholesterol. Some folks may have the metabolism to support unhealthy food, but that doesn’t mean that the blood is flowing through their arteries at maximum efficiency. It doesn’t mean that their hormone levels are normal and it doesn’t mean that they are going to live longer than someone who takes care to nourish their body. Skinny people don’t always live healthy and shouldn’t get credit for doing so just for looking a certain way. If you’ve ever busted your ass at the gym or traded in your favorite chicken/burger/pizza/pie for a vegetable or fruit – you know how hard it is. So many people say they want to lose weight to be healthy, so they exist on a diet sodas and 100 calorie snack packs as if that is the key to better body efficiency. But those foods with preservatives, fillers and artificial “stuff” present a different host of health concerns.

Healthy is not sexy

One of the reasons you hear less about good health than weight loss is that a chart of recommended blood levels is BORING. Only Dr. Oz is willing to don a pair of gloves and show you a fucked up liver. And to keep it real, we’re all kind of making faces at the TV. It is a challenge to turn a salad into action shot. You’ll see the nutritionist work with the contestants on the Biggest Loser, but we’re all really tuning into see Jillian yell at them as they flip tires. The media is challenged to take this thing that we’re all so concerned with and turn it into drama and sex. So we get a distorted view of what’s healthy. Because the realest part of the show is when the contestants visit Dr. H.

Weight loss is an industry

As long as you think that weight loss is the key to health, you will keep coming back for more. When you accept that exercise and balanced nutrition will support the efficient function of your body parts, they’re afraid you’ll realize you don’t need the pills, you don’t need the gimmicks. Heaven forbid you accept your body the way it is and make it its best instead of trying to turn it into something its not. This probably deserves its own post, but the point is as long as you define weight loss as good health, someone is getting rich.

Believe it or not, the point of this post is not to attack the somedia, it is to encourage you to define for yourself what good health is, and to seek to attain that.

I can’t begin to decide for you what good health means, but for me, it means possessing a body capable of managing the things I want and need to do. I want energy at 2 P.M., I need to climb 3 flights of stairs to get into my apartment. And I’ve seen people skinnier than me winded at my front door. I want to do yoga, so good health to me is possessing the body that supports that. I’ve discovered, much to my chagrin that when I am dehydrated my body does not function as well in yoga. Many of you reading this will want to chase after children or grandchildren. That’s healthy – not a number on a scale.