When I asked my roommates what comes to mind when they think about being healthy, their answers were not entirely unexpected. Exercise, nutrition, and sleep. These words have become a reflex when thinking about our health related habits. But, if I had asked this question a couple decades ago, the answers may have been very different.
Throwing it back to the 1950’s, smoking cigarettes were all the rage. It was undeniably tempting when the habit was doctor recommended and promoted as an effective dieting method. And after seeing someone as beautiful as Audrey Hepburn constantly smoke? Forget it, everyone was doing it. Today it’s hard to imagine why smoking was ever seen as healthy with the overwhelming evidence from lung diseases and cancer. However, the influence of social norms on health related behaviours can make even the most obvious detrimental habits hard to disappear. Take yet another diet fad in the 1970’s, the Fat Free Food Boom. The dietary guidelines of “low fat, high carb” to improve the health of Americans was not only misleading, but just plain wrong. All fats were “bad fats”. The turnaround on fat consumption since this time has been huge, and now people just can’t stop eating avocados. My point is this: if cigarettes are no longer a socially acceptable healthy habit and fats are no longer bad, who’s to say that current health habits won’t be frowned upon in the future? Then again, hindsight is always 20/20.
Let’s say it’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon and you want to have a picnic on the beach. You walk into the grocery store with good intentions, grab a couple cans of chickpeas and some vegetables for your salad, and a bottle of sunscreen. Healthy choices right? But what about the BPA’s in the cans you just bought, the pesticides used to grow your vegetables, or the paraffin in your sunscreen? You just can’t win.
I want you to think about your health choices. Why did you chose to put that stuff in your fridge, or try that new workout? Was it because someone told you it was healthy? Did that latest advertisement tell you you’d get abs if you do it? When you’re choosing what’s healthy for yourself, making an informed decision can go a long way. My goal is to provide some perspective on health choices, and give some insight into health myths so you can think critically for yourself. The reality is, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the constant onslaught of information, but it’s important to remember there is no absolute approach to health. Don’t stress, just because you can’t afford to drop hundreds of dollars on designated superfoods doesn’t mean you can’t be healthy. A healthy lifestyle is dynamic, and everyone’s definition is different.
I’ll leave you with some food for thought. The greatest challenge about pursuing a healthy lifestyle is that there is no clear path. Everyone’s definition is different, and the very concept of health is dynamic. But the question is, at what point does pursuing a healthy lifestyle become unhealthy? If we’re constantly stressing about being healthy, it’s just plain contradictory.