We hear so often about a “healthy lifestyle” but what does that mean? I know that when I started my Size Acceptance/Health at Every Size practice “health” was basically a dirty word for me – the whole idea had become so intertwined with weight loss that I was unable to separate the two and wanted to reject both of them. I was finally able to separate the two, but then I was stuck trying to figure out what health really was and what constituted a healthy lifestyle and if it was something that I wanted to pursue.
The usual disclaimer (which is always interesting since I get about the same number of complaints saying either that I don’t say this, or that I say it too much): Health and the path to it are intensely personal decisions. They are not a personal, social, or moral obligation. The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not health or healthy habit dependent. Nobody owes anybody else health/healthy/healthy lifestyle by any definition. Health is multi-dimensional and not entirely within our control. Health is not a barometer for worthiness and is nobody else’s business. Public health should be about making options available to the public not about making individual’s health the public’s business.
Ok, so let’s say that you’ve made the decision that health is something that you want to pursue. The concepts of “health” and healthy lifestyle can still be really tough.
As far as health goes, I completely reject the idea that health is the absence of disease. I think that health is a moving target and that it’s about what you experience within the structure of your body and your situation (genetics, behaviors, environment, access, goals, priorities etc.). But that’s a pretty difficult target to hit since it’s not only moving but also in turns sticky and oozy.
I actually think that the idea of a “healthy lifestyle” could be helpful, and I’ve used the phrase before, but in the end I find that it’s just been too co-opted. Weight loss proponents often use it constantly to mean “living in a way that other people think will make you thinner/not fat.” The conflation of thinner and healthier is deeply problematic since, for example, becoming addicted to crystal meth is very likely to make me thinner and very unlikely to improve my health. Then there are people who don’t understand that comparison is for shopping and try to use the phrase to mean “living in a way that makes me better than those non-healthy people.” The funny thing about that is the way that, like drivers who think that anyone who drives faster than them is a maniac and anyone who drives slower is an idiot, the person claiming “healthy lifestyle” like it’s a badge of honor always seems to think that those who do more than they do are health nuts, and those who do less are lazy and unhealthy – they themselves being, of course, Goldilocks perfect.
For me, I think it’s about letting go of all of the social crap that exists around health and getting clear that this is only about me and my body. In my experience a “healthy lifestyle” means being able to shrug off the shame, stigma, and oppression that I have to deal with because society is screwed up about health and weight – and that includes misuses of the idea of health and a healthy lifestyle. After that it’s about what makes my body feel good, what supports what I want to do with my body, what options are available at various times and any number of other variables. I learned the very, very hard way that for me health isn’t about perfection or right and wrong and it’s not about a body size or a “lifestyle” to be lorded over anyone else – I felt my most superior when I was deepest into my eating disorder. It’s not about a set of rules, or trying to put moral value on food or exercise. It’s about a state of being in cooperation and appreciation with my body and that works for me.
Like the blog? Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):
Check Out my Book: Fat: The Owner’s Manual. The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here to order
Buy the Dance Class DVDs (hint: Free shipping was supposed to end on Monday but I haven’t had a chance to make the changes to the pricing so there’s still free shipping until I get it done)! Click here for the details
Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses
I do size acceptance activism full time. A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or want to support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.