Aug 19, 2010

what is healthy?

good morning!

i was blown away by all your wonderful comments on my thoughts about the HLS! thank you so much to each and every one of you who took the time to voice your opinion! i read every comment very interested to hear your opinions.

i guess if i'm going to challenge that the HLS may not be healthy, i should have given you my opinion on what IS healthy, shouldn't i?

my big beef with the HLS is not the Summit itself, but how it is perceived. food blogging has turned into this vortex people get sucked in to, and before we realize it, our view of "normal health" is training for a marathon, getting our RD, and eating oatmeal.

there's nothing wrong with those things! they just don't guarantee health, and they are certainly not the only way to get there. it bugs me how food blogging can be a trend/clique, like high school almost, and everyone accepts what a big blogger does as the gold standard of vitality.

if you went - i hope you had an amazing time! i would love to meet many of the lovely people who attended, and i do read some of their blogs, for sure! but most of them i view as entertainment or cooking information, not health advice. just because you take pictures everyday doesn't make you healthy, just like how researching nutrition daily doesn't make me a expert (darn it!).

i realize the Summit is about the community - and that's what it should be about. a group of bloggers hanging out and enjoying life together. if that was all everyone viewed it as, i wouldn't be bugged. but people assume it's more than that, like some holy grail of healthiness, and that's why i didn't want to go. i think there's a lot more to health than that - no criticism if you enjoyed it!

so what is health?

i didn't give my definition for two reasons: one, it's darn near impossible to outline, and two, what i have to say isn't easy to swallow.

it's difficult to define health because we all live different lives. what one person needs can be far different than their mom, brother, etc., and it constantly morphs over the years. health is individual and personal.

for some, running is a great path to health - exercise is certainly crucial to life! for others, though, running can be turned into a whip we use to beat our weight into submission, and that's not health. and true, losing weight could save some lives, but there's also nothing healthy about the diet mentality of starving/cheat days/protein overload. depending on who you are, health will take on a different appearance than someone else - and that's ok!

it might seem a bit radical, but go with me here - as a nation, we don't really want health. we want an excuse to keep doing what we're doing, and someone to consider us "healthy" so we feel good about ourselves. we want sympathy.

in all honesty, we're all so jaded we don't know what true health looks like! we live in a world where video games are considered exercise, half our food budget is spent on eating out, and most of us are obese. in today's america, you can't attain health without a lifestyle overhaul. 

i know our battle cry is "everything in moderation!," but since when did chemical preservatives, chocolate binges, daily starbucks runs, and making ourselves sick with greasy pizza become moderate? if moderation were truly all we needed, things like Food, Inc. and Supersize Me! wouldn't be shocking... those aren't examples of extreme living anymore - they're pretty moderate for most americans.

any way you slice it, moderation still includes things we desperately don't need for health. it's still a steady flow of junk. moderate amounts of gum still supplies you with a steady flow of chemicals, moderate amounts of unorganic produce still exposes you to hundreds of unnatural pesticides each day, and moderate amounts of dairy blasts you with added hormones.

think about it this way: would you smoke moderately? drive without a seatbelt moderately? take drugs moderately? the only reason we don't do those things in moderation is because we accept they are dangerous as a nation... and we won't accept we might have to change our eating habits, so we keep exercising "moderation." i'm pretty sure other cultures have been practicing true moderation for thousands of years, so who's has their perspective on health mixed up: them, or us?

i'm not criticizing anyone - truly, because i've been a slob most of my life! no judgement here. but i am tired of hearing doctors say all these new diseases are just a part of life and we have to medicate and deal with it. no, they're a part of THIS GENERATION. we did this to ourselves, and i'm not ready to accept that.

i want my life back! i'm not ok with accepting half the world will die of obesity-induced diabetes, or i'll lose my sisters to heart disease at 60. i'm not ok with accepting things like fibromyalgia, cancer, and autism are just a "freak occurances." NO NO NO! that is not health - but certainly a moderate amount of americans have them!

i know what you're thinking - eating healthy is not all life is about. i'm a college kid - i know sometimes, wendy's really is the only option, and chocolate cake is good! i get that totally! but if there's something in my life i know i can change for the better... why wouldn't i? i'd much rather put the time into choosing good food now than dealing with the emotional blow of cancer later in life. does that make me extreme?

i'm not telling you to live in a bubble, never go out to eat, or go vegan (but you should!). i'm begging you to PURSUE HEALTH - because in this generation, health is almost extinct.

so how to define health? i can't tell you exactly. you can't identify health just by what you DO. it encompasses your whole existance - your emotions, your mental stability, your stress level, your fitness level, your risk for disease, your quality of life. it's WHO you are, not WHAT you are.

if you're interested in what i DO or believe specifically, check out my passions page, or shoot me an email! i'd love to share what has worked for me - i can get out of bed now because of it! but truly, only you truly know if how you are living is supporting yourself do everything you want to do.

i want more - do you?


  1. Rebekah!
    I don't know if I've ever commented before? I've been stalking for awhile. Hrmm.. anyway, nice to meet you!

    I read your previous post on the HLS, and I really wanted to commend you for going against the grain and stating your opinion. To be honest, I was starting to feel the same way... like it was some sort of club or high school clique that I wasn't 'healthy enough' to be a part of.

    This follow up post is just as great, because it's so genuine. Health is such a hard concept for me to put into words given my history with disordered eating, but I truly believe that avoiding the 'moderations' that you are talking about is the key... at least for me. I've struggled with orthorexia, so a lot of people will look at the fact that I avoid chemical-laden foods or fast-food joints as a disordered choice, but I don't think that it is. I don't want to expose myself to that stuff if I can help it. My life is wonderful, pehaps even better, without it... so why not?

    Ugh.. I am sorry for that insanely long comment. I hope you don't hate me after my first response! Haha..
    <3 Tat

  2. Wow! What a powerful post. And I agree that the things that work for one person and fulfill their lives doesn't necessarily make them healthy. I think most of them ARE, but that isn't the be all and end all of health.

    I also love how you relate healthy eating to driving without a seat belt or smoking. That's a big reality smack right there. I do believe in and practice moderation, but always make the effort that the foods and movement beneficial to my health is the overwhelming majority. I know I have room for improvement and strive for it.

  3. Rebekah-LOVE your passion! Don't ever lose's so easy to, so DON'T! ;)
    1st-Recognizing we are not one dimensional, but are body, mind, and spirit. We are physical beings, we are emotional beings, we are mindful beings, we are sexual beings, we are spiritual beings.

    2nd-Finding out how to nurture and develop each of those aspects to God's glory. HE is the potter and we are the clay. :)

    3rd-Applying what we've realized to prevent sickness and promote positive growth and change.

    Of COURSE sickness will happen! It's in our world and it spreads.
    But, we can do things to hinder it or hasten it.

    whoa-guess i had more to say about that than i thought! :)

  4. Rebekah - Thanks for a passionate and kick-ass post. I love how you point out that we have a distorted view of health. While I think that our cultural idea of health is (thankfully!) shifting from just the absence of disease and eating less, we still have a long way to go to develop an idea of health that truly encompasses the whole person. As someone who works in mental health, I feel that the mental, spiritual, emotional pieces are often left out, and that leaves us all with such a limited and distorted picture of health.

    I won't comment specifically on HLS because I didn't go... hut I can see how readers of some food blogs can easily take the messages to be the proverbial TRUTH about health, when, as you say, it's really entertainment and one person's perspective. It's easy as readers to also get caught in the comparison trap...

    As an aside, to those who attended HLS: I was really hoping that I would read in your posts on the event about all the valuable lessons you learned about health and wellness. I am really not as interested in hearing about cocktail parties and swag. Not that these aren't fun and wonderful, but I don't think they should be the whole focus (and for some of you they were not!).

  5. This is a very interesting post. I think it's easier to come up with what ISN'T healthy. It's funny because I feel like this nation's main reason for being "healthier" isn't really to fight disease. I hardly hear that. No instead there are stickers on fruits saying how they'll help you lose weight. And I remember you mentioning in a previous post how the word calorie is thrown around, but that it makes more sense to label that as "energy"... like how some countries do. It's funny because other cultures that haven't been exposed to some modernities that have arisen to keep money and power flowing in a food industry.. have far less diseases and live very simply and happily. If a lot of people knew that these big companies don't actually CARE about the people... I wonder what they would do? That's why I think it's important to support local businesses and smaller businesses because those people are still in touch with reality and the folks that they sell their things to. There's a CONSCIOUSNESS behind there. That's how I like to live my life--thoughtfully and consciously. And I agree with the above comment about health also being mental clarity. Sometimes I feel like these "health"-related things floating around blogs stems from an obsession.. not so much a passion. And there is a difference. I think obsession fuels more of an avoidance towards things and passion is more of an honest intention. Do you know what I mean? I hope that made sense lol. Anyway, I love this post! You're so wonderfully thought-provoking :)


    p.s. I'm trying to watch my money now that school is starting, but I'd love to meet up for some tea or coffee :D Does that sound good??

  6. This is a very interesting post and it has taken me quite a while to formulate my thoughts on it. I'm new to the whole blogging world. I have basically been a one blog reader for the past year so am not even familiar with the generalities you are making about healthy living bloggers. I do agree that there are aspects of healthy eating that get overlooked many times (such as sodium, especially in some of those "healthy" breads), but for those who have never had a health issue with blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes (etc) I can understand why it wouldn't be on their nutritional radar.

    I did feel compelled to comment though on your thoughts on weight loss and calorie restriction. As a journey to health for many people in this country it is IMPERATIVE that they begin to pay attention to calorie intake, and begin to modify it. I'm not talking about the people who feel out of shape, I'm talking about those like me who have been SEVERELY morbidly obese. I do not consider myself on a diet, but rather having adopted a new way to eat. I do however count calories daily and measure portions. Even after a year my body signals are still not such that I can trust myself to eat more intuitively (though it is getting better). True, I think "diet" is a four letter word, and if you truly want to change your life and strive for better health you need to find a way without "dieting". I would just like to point out that losing weight, especially for the morbidly obese, really, really will save lives and lead to better health.

    One final thought- can we ever really consider ourselves to BE "healthy" like it is a static thing, or is it instead about an ever changing journey to LIVE "healthy"

  7. Wowsa chica! You gave me a lot to think about. I have also decided that I need to define health for myself. I need to live up to my standards. I know that if I wrote my definition down on paper, I would not match up. Hard to admit. P.S. I think running a marathon is the silliest thing in the world. I love my hips and knees thank you. I do run a few times a week, but I do small runs and have a day of rest in between. I also am not that huge of a fan of oatmeal. :( I am such a bad blogger. :P

  8. Gosh, I love your boldness in these last 2 posts. And whilst I don't agree with them entirely I do think there is one major danger with the whole healthy blogging world; and that is orthorexia. This is going to sound a bit rambly but these thoughts are quite fresh so you'll have to bare with me :)

    As you know, I love blogging and I love the sense of community it can create. However, I am also worried for some of those who are reading these blogs. There are an awful lot of vulnerable people reading healthy living blogs and take what is written by "health experts" as absolute when it comes to what is healthy. For example, those blogs who blog "everything" they eat in one day. I love these blogs, don't get me wrong. They appeal to the voyeur in me and they inspire me to try out new meals and snacks. However, one can't assume that this is all they eat just because they post and say it is so it shouldn't be taken as an ideal to emulate. So, my issue is the comparison problem; x eats this in a day, or x eschews all fat, or does y amount of exercise therefore I must do the same in order to be healthy. This is my concern. Especially as over recent months I have watched some bloggers food get increasingly restrictive and their weight get lower and lower. "But it's acceptable because all these other bloggers do it". NO! So many are feeling the pressures of society and these pressures can be heightened, unintentionally, by the blogging community. There are many who are in danger of orthorexia. However, I don't know what we as bloggers can do about it. But I think it is something we should be aware of.

    I'm not sure if any of what I've said I makes sense! But that's my rant. xxx

  9. Health to me is treating your body as best as you can, and paying attention to what it wants. It annoys me to no end when I see products that promise low calories, but offer no substance. There was some brand of bread that I saw a couple years ago, and the slices were 40 calories or some low number like that. Then I looked closer and saw that the slices covered about 70% of the surface area of a normal slice of bread and were paper-thin. I don't know about you, but that's just going to make me want to eat 3 sandwiches since I'll feel like I ate so little (if the bread didn't fall apart given its lack of density before I could even eat them, anyway). And what cracked me up was that this teeny little loaf was far more expensive than the "regular" loaves of bread. If that's not ripping off the health-conscious public, I don't know what is. Here's an idea: just slice a piece of whole-grain bread in half, and just make a half-sandwich. It's not so much bread that it takes up half the sandwich's calories, but it's also enough whole grains to help you feel full and is a big-enough vessel for the (hopefully) healthy sandwich toppings.
    And don't even get me started on those 100-calorie packs that Nabisco (I think?) makes. >=( I vehemently disagree with their choice in ingredients, but that aside, back when I didn't care about ingredients, I would eat one and feel like I just ate air, when I could have eaten a filling apple or something else that at least made me feel like I was EATING.
    It's not like I'm against things that are healthy and happen to be low in calories. I have nothing against lettuce and vegetables; I eat them all the time.

    It's the idea that being healthy REQUIRES low-calorie foods that I have a problem with. Because what I often find is that calories aren't the only things that these low-calorie processed foods are lacking in. They're also lacking in vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, healthy fats, (100%) whole grains... And that isn't healthy, because what is healthy to me is contributing to the well-being of your body by not polluting it with unnatural substances and supplying it with necessary and vital nutrients.

    I haven't read everyone's comments yet but I did read Jayna's because as of writing this hers is the last one. I certainly don't think that you're saying that counting calories is unhealthy for those that are obese or close to it and need to lose weight for the benefit of their health. You, of course, know full-well that losing weight if you're very heavy is imperative to being a healthful person. But I agree that it might not be the best thing for everyone, to count each and every 1/4 of a calorie, weigh everything that you eat and record it, if you don't even need to lose that much weight. Some people can handle it well, but I know to some people it makes eating a stressful burden, and at that point it would be healthier to stop counting calories than to have that much anxiety about eating.

    Lovely post, as always. :)

  10. The only reason I'd want to go to HLS is to meet up with some of my "Friends" Ive met throuhg here all in one place.

    and you are right--food blogging doesnt make you healthy. In fact, I think sometimes it can be unhealthy.

    I recently did a post about my views on what is healthy..heres the link if you want to read it..

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. PS: holy fruitcake, that was a long comment. Sorry!

    *stops spamming post now*

  13. Rebekah, you are one interesting and brave person. That deserves respect, because as far as I've understood, this HLS is rather big over there. I just read about it, and got a feeling that it was portrayed as some "superclub" who held the Great Truth of what health means.
    And, as you say, there is no standard definition of health - we all have individual needs. I must thank you for speaking your mind, because even though the blogging community has many benefits, there is always a huge risk for people to start compare themself to other. And with that follows the risk of feeling not good enough, or in this case : not healthy enough.

    I used to do that, comparing my food with the food of other bloggers. I ended up feeling miserable about my full-fat products and steak. But then I had to remind myself of that these products made my body feel wonderful and strong, and that is what should matter to me. My food works for me, they do wonder for my body. I might end up excluded from the healthy clique, but so be it. My health is not a general concept, it is about my individual needs.
    It is about nutritious, good food. Love from the nature, not from a money-driven industry.

  14. this is a GREAT follow-up post. And I love what you bring up about moderation, and comparing it to drugs, seatbelts, etc. I'd never thought about it that way - but while I can't say I'm opposed to "everything in moderation" it makes me sort of annoyed when I see someone saying that every other meal. Obviously, moderation means different things to them than it does to me!
    I think that everyone having different definitions of health is actually a great thing. It makes people different, and everyone has their own viewpoints. But, unfortunately, I'd agree with you that far too many Americans have drastically warped visions of what "healthy" is :(

  15. Wow, it's really refreshing to read a critical perspective on the HLS and the idea of "health" in general. Very nice work!

  16. amen girl. u rock. the whole "moderation" thing..I get that a lot..but you are truely right..IT ADDS A LOT>
    i believe if we would live like people used to : support your family of your land, by locally, etc. the world would be MUCH healthier! :)

  17. I just want to say that I am in love with your blog! This post was so insightful. Yes, health is so hard to define and completely different for everyone! I was browsing some your previous posts on your My Passions page and they are soo helpful <3

  18. Such excellently worded posts and the fact that you followed up on the first one and expressed the reasoning behind your views (whether people agree or not) makes it that much better.

    Comparing, instant gratification and the lack of realizing that we're all different is a huge part of the problem, just like you addressed. There is no single definition of healthy that fits every single individual. We each have needs and lifestyles that work best for us and it's up to us to find them. It wouldn't be such a problem if we used other blogs as a starting point to discover what we need, but instead of putting in a little bit of effort, we immediately believe that that person is the ideal image of healthy and to be as good as they are we have to mimick their lifestyle.

    That's 10 times as unhealthy on every level... And another problem (that has affected me at the very least) is that so many of the guidelines nowadays are directed toward a majority of Americans. I was actually told by my doctor to eat more and exercise less. It's extremely hard for me to do that, let alone comprehend that because of how the media and health professionals spam into our minds that we have to exercise "x" minutes per day and eat "x" servings from these food groups to be "healthy." And then I get told to do the opposite of what everyone else is told? Not to mention all of the talk about how to cut calories from meals by replacing ingredients with fake ones etc....

    If we're happy, and feel healthy, then I think that's a great way to define "being healthy" for an individual.

  19. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and feelings.

    I did speak about this topic at HLS. The point of a healthy living blog is to share a story. This is why we all started blogging in various ways. And if we can all bond over oatmeal, and greek yogurt and running a marathon, then so be it!

    Honestly, the things we do, say and eat are things that make is feel good. Disordered or not. But seeing someone else experience and story might make us realize something that we were missing out on.

    I eat junk food. Chips, cookies candy. Because it tastes good. I also eat veggies and fruits because they taste good to me. We all have our intentions and our story and we all share it on our blogs.

    Thanks for sharing yours :)!


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