The Basics

Working on a generalized basis, I would assume that the vast majority of humans would prefer to be healthy. But what does that even mean? Taking the widest possible definition, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines it as such: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

And yes, I am limiting this discussion to the States as the myriad of options that include developing and currently-mired-in-war-and-or-other-catastrophes nations are simply too great to discuss.

In a practically applicable sense, I would extrapolate WHO’s definition to mean that when you wake up in the morning, you have enough energy to get through the day, deal with whatever comes your way with pragmatism and some good face time with a friend or partner, and you can fall asleep at night to get enough rest to do it all again the next day. In this sense, the normal day of a “healthy” person would not be marked with tremendous ups and downs, whether physically, emotionally or socially.

Which really makes it seem that being unhealthy is much more common than one might think. For instance, not being able to fall asleep at night and then dragging through the day, or getting emotionally wrapped up in insignificant issues, or isolating yourself from your peers all seem like potentially unhealthy behaviors. But how far does this go? Does getting mad in traffic make you unhealthy? Does staying in an unsatisfying relationship bring down your well-being? Is having a late afternoon slump cause for worry? I guess that depends on perspective.

We are all raised to treat our health in different ways. There are those that never visit the doctor, and those who get an appointment the moment they have an itch in their throat. Since we are a baby-making culture, women are told early on to go get that yearly check up, while men are often reluctant to go for anything they deem unnecessary, which is pretty much everything. Of course, there are overlaps, hypochondriacs, people in denial, those afraid of needles, and those with medical problems that no one seems to have answers for. I’d like to think most people fall somewhere in between the never-goes to the hypochondriacs, but I have been wrong before.

So if our personal definitions of health range from, “If it don’t hurt, it don’t matter,” to “My big toe is too big, it must be cancer,” no wonder the medical establishment comes off as self-confident and on top of it all. Health, above all else, is often not thought about logically. I have no doubt that nurses and doctors have it up to wherever with those that are actively hostile or actively batty. It would certainly lead me to a superiority complex, and a strong case of the judgersons.

My own General Practitioner, according to her indiscreet nurses, has been seeing a spate of senior citizen cases of VD. This seems to have exasperated her, because her discussions about reproductive health are laced with puritan-like fervor. My Ob-Gyn went as far to say that she wishes people would just “only use their hands and wash up right after” instead of any of those germ-spreading “other” activities. I tend to find both positions kind of silly. We’re all human here, and this new, and rather insidious I would say, push to be perfectly healthy at all times is unattainable. Micro-biotic diets, colon cleansing, detox, intense exercise, and guilt are what lots of Americans run on today. Or perhaps just whatever they can manage in terms of their definition of “healthy” and then guilt. But there is always guilt.

We eat too many calories, we don’t work out enough, we don’t eat our five servings of vegetables, we drink too much alcohol, we consume ungodly amounts of corn, and on and on. No wonder I am writing this. We are health obsessed. So much so that a new definition has been written up for an eating disorder for those that are overly preoccupied with healthy food: orthorexia.

The answer seems to be simple: balance. As all things, too much worrying about health is bad for you. Ignoring it is also bad. So what’s the middle ground? It should be evident, but with so many forces pulling in opposite directions, it’s almost maddening to sift through who is probably right and who is most likely wrong. I certainly don’t have the answer, but I think that my first question – what is health – means something else to me than it does to the WHO.

Healthy is what you make of it. After all, so much of our lives depend on our own perspectives. And mine regarding health is still forming.


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