What Does Health Really Mean?
Health and fitness mean different things for every person.
For me, both have taken priority, but their importance and meaning in my live have vacillated throughout the different stages of my life.
Growing up in a large suburb in New Jersey, we spent as much time outside as we could. My childhood revolved around sports, and every weekend was filled multiple soccer games between my older brother and me. Between the two of us, we played every club or travel sport and lived a very active life. Weekends would be spent additionally riding our bikes around the neighborhood or taking trips to our house in Vermont
I’m not going to lie. From about 4th grade to 6th grade, I was the chubbier girl but was also the most athletic. My appearance changed when I hit 7th grade and eating and fitness really started taking shape in terms of my lifestyle.
I went from a round faced, chubby, yet strong child to a thinned out, weak, girl. Although this was the case, I was able to run miles upon miles without any loss of breath. These certain facts were the types of justifications I told myself as I began to shed pounds through exercising and eating very little.
Unlike most kids growing up, I rarely ate typical youth foods like chicken fingers or cupcakes but rather grilled chicken, broccoli, and the occasional treat. Yes, my parents did let me eat whatever I want, but with a mother inclined to choosing all “healthy” foods and a personal attachment to body image, I always chose the “healthier” option.
I remember the summer after 7th grade, very vividly, when I went to another summer of sleep away camp. In addition to the planned day activities like soccer, tennis, swim, and lacrosse, I would get up every morning to run around camp. It was not until my counselor confronted me that I realized how thin I was getting and how little I was really eating. The working out might have been okay if I had compensated by eating more, but this was not the case at all. I rarely ate meals and once in a while ate junk food, but worried about that consumed food until the next time I worked out. This is when a problem started to form, and I knew something that should be a passion was really becoming an obsession. Fast forward five years and this problem began to take shape again.
But before we get there, what does “healthy” really mean? What is the point where you are working out too much? How do you balance food and fitness? Throughout the different stages in my life healthy has taken on several meanings.
Healthy when I was in elementary school was just running around, playing the sports I always did while eating my fruits, veggies, protein, and some junk food. As I hit middle school, specifically 7th grade, “healthy” meant running everyday while eating the least I could to sustain my energy for my school sports.
As I went into my freshman year I continued as a three sport athlete, but let myself indulge more and tried to be not as rigid. I kept up this “balance” until the middle of junior year when many changes came into my life. When the beginning of junior year was just around the corner, the worst thing that could possibly happen, happened. My father suddenly passed away of a stroke. A healthy man with no serious health conditions was just taken away.
From that point I decided that I would control everything I could concerning my health and my body. I spent the beginning of junior year playing soccer really eating what I could, but as the winter hit, I participated in winter track, and I was running miles upon miles and limiting myself to the foods I thought were “healthy” and “acceptable.” By the end of junior year, I was worried about my fitness and nutrition more than ever and was running extra in addition to 6 days a week of high school lacrosse. Prom season reinforced my thoughts of what was “healthy,” and I did everything to look perfect in my dress and feel “great.” Nothing could change how I was living my life, because I thought I was feeling my best and looking my best. The concern of working out and eating nutritionally what I thought was “best” led into the summer before my last year of high school and inevitably took over every aspect of my life. What I thought was healthy at this point was in fact malnourished and over-exherted.
So, how did I get back to being truly healthy? My next article will dive into the most important year of my life as far as health and fitness: my senior year of high school. After this year, I truly understood what “healthy” is and should be for a young adult like me…
If you or someone you know is suffering with an eating disorder, the National Eating Disorders Association (nationaleatingdisorders.org) supports individuals and families affected by eating disorders, and serves as a catalyst for prevention, cures and access to quality care. Call their toll free, confidential Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. In addition, Project HEAL funds inpatient, residential, intensive outpatient, and outpatient treatment for applicants suffering from an eating disorder who want to recover but cannot afford treatment. Go to http://theprojectheal.org/apply-for-grants/our-scholarship-progra/ for information about how to apply for a treatment grant OR VISIT WWW.THEPROJECTHEAL.ORG
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