I often refer to getting healthy as getting to your version of healthy, and I was recently asked why I don’t just say, “here’s what healthy is and how to get there.”
So it got me thinking about the health standards that have been set for us by “those people” and that led down the rabbit hole of standards of health.
I’ll preface this by saying I don’t recommend being anti-medicine or anti-doctors. I believe most people are doing the best they can with the information they have, myself included! Please don’t take this as a discredit to medical standards or a way to invalidate all the research that has gone into establishing them.
One of my philosophies is to take ownership of your health, and by questioning the health standards given to us by “those people” I’m doing just that… staying curious and reclaiming ownership over my own health, and I encourage you to do the same!
What’s the Standard?
It’s easy to say there’s little genetic variation amongst humans – we’re all technically the same animal species and our actual DNA likely only differs by 1%.
But considering the genetic variations possible in the human species, we’re a diverse set of creatures to say the least. And if you add in our environmental differences, it gets even more complicated!
So it’s safe to say the generalized standards for humans just can’t be the ideal for every single human. It’s got to be a law of averages or historical data or something. Meaning we each have our own level of optimal for each health standard out there.
For example, blood pressure – my optimal blood pressure, down to the mm Hg they measure, will likely be different than your optimal blood pressure, but they’ll probably fall within a certain range of what’s deemed to be healthy.
Except, those “healthy” ranges have changed over time due to scientific advancements (measuring and monitoring capabilities) as well as all the data that’s come in the past few decades to better understand blood pressure.
There used to be categories of normal, prehypertensive, and hypertensive standards, but they’ve recently changed the standards to be normal, elevated, stage 1, stage 2 and crisis.
Another example is this height/weight chart from 1959 – note the female height is with 2” shoes on (which I find hysterical). It has desirable (could you imagine if that’s the word they used now?) weights for small, medium and large frames for both men and women. But now we use BMI because of the differences in body composition (fat tissue vs muscle tissue).
So how are we supposed to aim for a moving target?
How Do You Feel?
Luckily for us, the health standards change fairly slowly so if we want to compare ourselves to benchmarks we sure can.
But what if instead you measured your health and wellness on how you feel rather than just benign in a “normal” range.
It’s admittedly a little challenging at first – it requires paying attention to and listening to your body. It may help if you track your feelings of wellness over time and are able to correlate it to how you actually feel.
Damn… sounds hard, right?
But so does chasing after norms that may or may not be ideal for us as individuals. And as I’m sure you know from my previous post, you’re the unopposed expert on you!
You are the only one who knows how you feel – whether it’s a good day, or whether your knees can feel the storm rolling in, or whether that sandwich for lunch made you lethargic all afternoon. You’re the only one who knows if you feel better after a HIIT workout or a long slow jog… or if it depends on the day!
I understand in today’s world with every distraction available that it’s hard to listen to our bodies; it’s easier to have someone else tell us what we should or shouldn’t do for our health. But then it allows us to place blame on someone or something else instead of taking ownership over our health and doing something about it.
When you put a stake in the ground and decide to claim your own version of healthy, you’re taking back the power of your health and you’re taking back control over your health. Both of those things mean you can have whatever kind of future self you want, and there’s an incredible sense of self that comes along with knowing your health is in your hands.
So you decide… what’s your version of healthy look like?