Friday, March 30, 2012

What Does Healthy Look Like?

Today was the moment of truth. I gave myself until the end of the month to be able to complete 25 real push-ups simultaneously, AND I DID IT! My arms felt like they were going to fall off, but I did it, and I am so proud of myself. I am now wondering what my next little fitness goal should be – run the distance between the house and bus stop and back in under 8 minutes, or run two miles on the treadmill in 20 minutes or less. Honestly, I need to work on my flexibility – I’ve never been very flexible, and it seems to be getting worse as I age. So maybe I will try to fit yoga into my routine a couple days a week so I can touch my knees with my forehead.

This entire period of goal setting and exercising with the kids encouraged me to pose this question: What does “HEALTHY” look like? I know that I am medically “defined” as being overweight – 10 pounds shy of being at the high end of an optimum BMI – but does that mean that I am unhealthy? I am hoping not.

Instead of going by physical aptitude, physicians’ tests, and the like, most people today tend to dole out the “healthy” adjective to those that look a certain way. She will hate me for doing this, but the photo is of my little sister two years ago when she was competing in a Natural Physique Council bikini contest. Yep, she looks healthy to me! I could be envious and say that I was duped out of getting those good genes, but I know she worked really hard to look that way. She also has a degree in health and fitness and is a certified personal trainer. The interesting thing about her journey to that awesome body is that she said she would never tell a client to eat the way she did for good health. Food choices are very limited. She ate plenty, but her diet was not varied at all. And you should see what all the competitors ate the day of the competition…SUGAR, SUGAR, and more SUGAR.

It was not that long ago – it must have been before the rise of the supermodel – when somebody was referred to as “healthy” it meant they had some meat and fluff on their bones. Parents were worried if their kids were getting enough to eat, and having a little extra in the middle and on their cheeks was a sign of getting plenty. But where is the line between healthy and unhealthy? Can we really tell by “looking at a person?”

I try to remind myself on a regular basis when talking with my child that I need to focus on fitness and quality of diet - not what they look like or the numbers on the scale - but it has been a real struggle for me worrying about how they will be perceived by others.

I was shocked at my kid’s last checkup when my pediatrician called attention to my 3-year-old son’s numbers – he is in the 75th percentile for height and 85th for weight. “I don’t really worry about those things at this age, but we may look at it in the future,” she said. Really? LOOK AT HIM! He is solid as a rock and extremely healthy! So now I’m thinking all this number business needs to be thrown out the window as well. BMI, ideal weight, muscle mass, body fat percentage, waist to hip ratio? What is the real determination of “healthy?” We are unique individuals, and what is healthy for one, may not be healthy for another.

When I was in high school (late 80s/early 90s), I remember hearing a commercial on the radio for a weight loss product while I was riding with other students to a Quick Recall meet. The commercial was a conversation between two teenage girls who were making fun of another girl who weighed 150 pounds. I remember feeling like a complete loser, because I weighed about 160 at the time. “Do they think I weigh that much,” I fretted? “I’ll just have to lie if someone asks me how much I weigh.” And thus the reason why most men think any woman, who is “trim,” no matter how tall she is, weighs 120 pounds or less. WE’VE BEEN LIEING ABOUT OUR WEIGHTS FOR YEARS! I would be thrilled to be 150, or even 160 again, and I know I would look pretty darn good!

I always find myself comparing myself to the Biggest Loser contestants. "I weigh that much, and look nothing like that." "They must be much shorter than I am." "Honey, do I look like that?" Finally, I told myself to get over it. We have a wide-screen TV.

My new philosophy is that “healthy” is a feeling, and right now I’m feeling pretty healthy. Will it make me live longer? I don’t know, but at least I’ll be happier than if I was constantly worrying if my dress or pant size makes me an adequate human being. I hope to instill this in my kids as well.

1 comment:

  1. I was going to say - you definitely look healthy to me, Leisl. :) I would have never put you in the "overweight" category.


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