Updated: Jul 6, 2020
Health is a term that is thrown around a lot, by too many people, and if you got any of these people to describe what health is I bet you couldn’t even get a definition. My definition of health is:
“An optimal state of physical, emotional and mental well-being that is free from disease and injury”
Health can come in many different forms, and your perception of health can change throughout your life. There is no one pathway to optimal health and it is different for everybody. Physiological health is more so a general platform of fundamentals, but even so, achieving this may be a different process for everyone. Essentially what I’m trying to say is, if you gave everyone the same script to live from, composed of what you think creates a healthy life, some will end up being extremely healthy, others will end up riddled with physical and mental disease, while others will see no difference. Again we come across the relatable key word that is individuality.
A client of mine brought this up to me today, saying how one of my posts was very ‘aesthetics’ based and not the ‘health freak’ she though I 'once was'. And so this was my perfect platform to describe what is health? For me it is very different to what my client thinks it is. Being a good coach isn’t about having rules for everyone, that they must follow, and if they don’t, their health will not be achieved. For me, health is personal. Eating for purpose in my eyes gives me great satisfaction, happiness and a mental state of well-being that provides a form of health that others may not get from the same stimulus. Eating for purpose and not pleasure means I know I am stepping towards my goals, towards a body that I desire, that in my head places near the top of my priority list and something that I value so highly. Consequently, eating for purpose puts me in an extremely strong, happy and rewarding mental state. For others, eating for purpose may make them feel restricted, unable to enjoy food and create negative and poor relationships with food. This approach for someone who isn’t me would not achieve their desired level of health, if eating for purpose creates such negative response. Physiologically your body will be loving it, but it doesn’t cater for the other two parts of the triad in my definition of health, ‘mental’ and ‘emotional’ health. This is just one example of how differences need to be acknowledged, and what makes one person healthy, may not result in the same outcome for another.
Social interaction is coincidentally (or not such a coincidence) related to a longer life span. The more social interactions a person has in their lifetime, the longer they are expected to live. For one person, the social interaction on a weekend, which means they stay out later and maybe jig their sleep schedule a tad, may end up having far greater positive effects than making sure they get to bed on time. Obviously we are talking within reason here. But going to bed at 10:30 instead of 9:30 one night might pay you benefit, if you are enjoying the company of your peer group. The often related consumption of alcohol, treats, and what not, may counteract this form of ‘health’ but I would value the fact I am spending quality time with my good friends, family, and the need for alcohol is completely non-existent. Social interaction would be enough for me to enjoy, stay emotionally ‘healthy’, and reap the benefits of maybe staying out a little later. AGAIN, for others, if their perception of health means they need to go to bed at a certain time, and they are emotionally attached to that bed-time, and any later they feel guilty, they are annoyed they are not in bed, they are getting frustrated that they can't be asleep at 10pm may wreck havoc mentally and emotionally, and this person (me) would benefit from just going to bed at 9:30 to promote their perception of health, and lessen the detrimental emotional effects that not getting to bed onetime may elicit.
I could talk about food - one person may get relentless nutritional benefit from eggs, others may have built an intolerance and they get inflammation and poor gastric functioning after consuming the eggs. Eggs for one person is healthy, for the other they are not.
I could talk about training - as I have eluded to a lot before, some modalities of training create sensational responses to some individuals (there’s that word again), but to others it could be adding to the repeated stressors, under-recovery and inflammation of certain, different individuals. HIIT training will be good for some people, not great for most. Strength training will be phenomenal for most people, but a step too far too soon for others. Many people are scared, and get anxious if they are told to lift weights, or told they have to resistance train. For that person, are the physiological benefits of weight training really going to outweigh the constant emotional and metal issues they relate to weights?
Being a great coach is not about forcing your bias onto an individual, forcing your own actions upon a client just because they make you ‘healthy’. Being a great, successful coach is about understanding the needs of your client, understanding their perceptions of what health means from a physical, mental and emotional standpoint. It is abut creating an environment for them that gives happiness, satisfaction, enjoyment and obviously the desired end result. Health does not have any blanket associations, it does not have black and white rules. Everything needs to relate to, benefit and provide advantageous responses to an individual. What is healthy to one person, may not be healthy for another.
I would love to hear all your thoughts on what health means to you. Please comment your thoughts, i'm all ears.
Thank you to my client, and good friend for inspiring this post. Health is happiness, not rules.
Luke French | Health Coach