It seems that, for many, striving to be healthy and striving for ‘good’ looks have become synonymous. Of course, we are often told that good health will inevitably lead to an improved physical appearance, which, in and of itself, is probably true (to a certain extent). The problem, however, lies with our distorted image of a healthy-looking body.
I hope it goes without saying that the benefits experienced as a result of improved health and a healthy lifestyle, are different for everyone. Some of us experience improved complexion, whilst others might lose some excess weight. Unfortunately, for most of us these improvements will mainly be noticeable at an internal level (i.e. reduced visceral fat, increased vitality, lower cholesterol, lower blood sugar levels, decreased risk of diabetes, better cardiac health etc.)
Live healthily now and reap the benefits later?
Living healthily certainly makes us feel more energised (even if this is just a result of our confirmation bias). Yet, those of us who are lucky enough to already have been in relatively good health before making any lifestyle changes will probably only really start benefitting these changes at a later stage; when our bodies start ageing more quickly.
The frustration this knowledge brings with it might push some of us to resort to rather unhealthy measures to achieve the ‘healthy look’ that is celebrated nowadays-often consisting of a toned body, with very little fat on it. We may choose to cut back our caloric intake significantly or to cut out entire food groups (been there, done that). Doing so might urge us to give up on the things we love eating and drinking, but also to overexercise and/or move in ways our bodies weren’t necessarily designed to.
It is important not to confuse going through ‘extreme’ measures, to obtain a certain physical goal, with moving and eating right to be healthy. Doing the latter also means you:
- Move in ways your body was designed to (without exhausting it unnecessarily).
- Take some time for off your ‘healthy’ food and fitness regimen (i.e. holidays, birthdays etc.)
- Indulge from time to time (not just once a month, more like a few times a week).
- Work on your mental health- acknowledge the importance of balance, mindfulness, and relaxation when reaching your goals.
- Avoid eating foods just because they claim to be ‘healthy’- sugar-free chocolate is still chocolate.
Most importantly, don’t confuse the cookie-cutter idea of a ‘good’ or ‘healthy’-looking body for an actually healthy one. In many cases (not all!), those washboard abs are not a testament of good health; but rather of a very strict food and fitness regimen that drives many to exhaustion and even illness (i.e. constant colds, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and even eating disorders).
It is fine to want to be healthy and look ‘good’ at the same time. But it is important to remember that these two are separate goals, and that one certainly does not guarantee the other.
Related post: Don’t turn your healthy lifestyle into an obsession