"Health" has become such a loaded word in our society, and is something I believe many people struggle with, regardless of their histories with mental illness or eating disorders.
This has been something that I've been thinking about & struggling with since the first time I went to treatment. As I started working through my issues with food, body, and self-worth, I continued to run into this concept of "health" and how it impacted me throughout my recovery. My dietitian finally addressed it with me, and this was something that effects me deeply, even over a year later.
She told me, "Charlotte, you used to equate health with being skinny. You have to redefine what health means for you."
I wrote an Instagram post about it, where I detailed all of the things that used to be "healthy" to me (eating disorder behaviors and symptoms). You can read that post here. And while I think it's important to point out what's not considered healthy for me anymore, I'd much rather focus on all of the things that make me truly healthy. This kind of reframe can help me on the days where it feels hard to acknowledge that what I'm doing, right here, right now, is what's healthy for me.
Health for me means a number of things.
It means that I eat. It means that I value a good night's sleep, and constantly aim for 8+ hours a night. It means that I walk and move my body, to get fresh air, and to regulate my mood. It means that I take medication every day, to keep myself stable and feeling alright. Health means that I make time to spend with family and friends, but can set boundaries and be comfortable spending time alone. It means going to therapy, showing up and working hard in treatment. It means that I am recognizing that I am not only allowed, but also encouraged to reach out when I need extra help. Health means writing, blogging, and creating art. It also means slowing down, listening to my body when I'm over-exerting myself. It means that I have a doctor who I see regularly, getting tests done when they're needed, and making any and all mental and physical health concerns known. Health means that I'm finally getting surgery on a chronic shoulder injury after 9 years. It means practicing new coping skills, expressing my needs, and trying to show myself compassion. It means loving myself and others as fully as I can. Health means living as authentically as possible.
The amazing part of this is that health is always changing and evolving. Something that is part of what you consider to be healthy may no longer resonate with you in the future. And things that may have not seemed to be important to you can also become a huge part of your health, and what you value health to be.
I encourage you to think about what health means to you. Does it mean that you can keep up with your kids and your dogs, or does it mean that you do yoga and meditate a certain number of times every week? Is it about making sure you have enough energy to do what you want to do, or does it mean setting a goal, running a race, or trying new foods?
Health is very individualized. Think about the unique ways that health can manifest itself for you.
I've asked a couple of the people close to me what health means to them. I really loved all of their responses, because each one is so individual and unique, and each one is so true and valid.
My wonderful roommate Shree tells me that "health for me is taking care of myself and being well."
My fellow mental health advocate, & friend Jocelyn puts it beautifully, "A true state of health is when one is able to feel fulfilled and thrive both emotionally and physically, day in and day out."
"To me, health is about focusing on how you and your body feel, as opposed to how you look. And placing the same importance on mental health as physical health, realizing that they are very intertwined and need to work together," Colleen, my close friend, & ED warrior told me.
"I believe health encompasses the body, mind, and soul. Our bodies hear everything we say and feel everything we do to it. It is so important to develop self-love... when we have that, our personal health can empower us in so many ways." My soul sister and lifestyle writer, Jordan, rounds out these quotes, and I couldn't agree with her, or the other interpretations more!
So I challenge you again, what does health mean to YOU? I'd be curious to hear all about it, and think there'd be a lot more variety than you'd think.
Hi, I'm Charlotte! I'm a 24 year old navigating life in NYC and mental health recovery. I am passionate about public health and eliminating stigma.