THE CHANGING DEFINITION OF HEALTH

The topic of health, and what it is to be healthy, is overwhelming and ambiguous. I remember, around 7 years ago, my stepdad telling me that scientists have confirmed bacon is healthy. However, over the last 7 years, scientists have changed their mind’s about bacon hundreds of times. 7 years on, and I am still in the dark about the pig derived meat.

This is just one example the of many changing opinions about the definition of healthy food. I am pretty sure that if you entered ‘water is unhealthy’ into Google numerous articles -swearing that their facts are based on real scientific research- would appear. Consequently, varying, and at times clashing, opinions on exercise,  sleep and other lifestyle factors have been put forward; each person behind the opinion claiming that their opinion is the only correct one. This paints a picture of how the overall term ‘health’ is not a fixed definition, but rather a fluid concept up for interpretation.

My Great Nan died at the age of 90. She hardly touched products produced by the pharmaceutical industry, ate produce from her own farm (which included full fat dairy, meat, fruit and veg), walked for at least 30 mins (in the countryside air), and drank herbal teas by the gallon. Also, she adored a bread, butter and sugar sandwich. Was she healthy? It depends on who you speak to. Personally, I think she was incredibly healthy as she was mentally sharp, mobile and pain free till death. Occasionally, she suffered from joint pain. Her inability to accept change was the major reason why joint pain occurred, and her consumption of diary products was the other -minor- reason.

Confused? Well, I believe that peoples illnesses, diseases, aches and pains are due to their inner negative emotions which are translated into a physical form. More on this in my next post . However, in this post I will revert back to the exterior health of a person as physically taking care of yourself is still needed for overall health.

So back to the main topic of discussion. I’ve gathered some examples of just how ambiguous health is; all the examples have been exposed to extensive research so their is loads of information on the topic out there.

As I started with an example of bacon, it feels appropriate to firstly discuss the topic of food. Wind back a mere 100 years, food was scares, nutritional information was limited and diets within a community were very similar. People choose their food on the basis of what was available and tasty. Fridges for household were only invented in 1913 therefore food was fresh and local. Eating 3 times a day was the norm, with the last meal being a sit down dinner with the family. Potatoes, bread, fatty meat, butter, cheese, vegetables and fruit were staple foods. Back then, health meant being fit and healthy to work and most people met the criteria. The average woman was a size 12.

Fast forward a 100 years, we now have an abundance of nutritional information. The Government preaches that a healthy diet should contain little cheese and fatty meat, a significant amount of whole grain, not too much fruit, lots of vegetables and supplements such as multi-vitamins. Food can now be frozen and kept in cupboards, safe to eat for years. We eat between 1 meal to 6 meals a day, at a range of different times, and rarely at a dinner table with your family. It is hard to describe a typical diet, the array of food available to consumers is immense. However, processed food dominates diets; corn syrup and wheat are hard to avoid. Lastly, the word ‘superfood’ is everywhere- it is an umberella term to describe food that has exceptional health benefits.The Government finally knows what is healthy and believes that the food that was consumed by previous generations was unhealthy (cheese is bad, fatty meat is bad and butter is definitely very bad).  Our definition of health is what the media portrays it to be.

All the marvelous wealth of knowledge that we have acquired about nutrition has lead to  some interesting outcomes. The average woman is 2 sizes larger, diabetes has increased, heart attacks have risen, pressure on the NHS has rocketed, and overall it is very strange if someone doesn’t have something wrong with them. So although we have a greater access to food and healthcare we should be healthier, but are we?

Lets move on to another area that has changed over the years: smoking. When cigarettes first came on the market they were being advertised as the got to have item; they were cool, fashionable and some even claimed they were good for your health. Today, the health sector has declared a war on the cool accessory.  Doctors have realised that they have over 42 carcinogens and that smoking is associated with a multitude of diseases. This is another great example of how things can not be stuck in one box: the content of each box needs to be reviewed frequently.

Lastly, lets discuss exercise. It seems everyone is an expert on the topic, or at least has a very strong opinion about it.  Rewinding, yet again, 100 years, the Goverment was not concerned with immobile fat citizens. It didn’t need to as they didn’t exist. Although gyms  were on the rise, they were not deemed ‘unhealthy’ if you didn’t want to participate. On the other hand, in 2016 most people feel the pressure to be a frequent gym goer and the Government loves to highlight the benefits of exercise. Interestingly, exercise has become fashionable; just like cigarettes were.

There is much more to say on the topic but it is important what we hear all the opinions before making choices. Before believing that eating chocolate is bad and avoiding cheese, we should stop and think that at one point they were considered healthy, (or are for some people; if you’re climbing Mount Everest, and only have chocolate, then it will be the healthiest food as it will give you energy, and thus allow you to survive) and who knows maybe in a couple of weeks scientists will class one of these foods as a superfood. Therefore, more important than going with the health trends of the year, perhaps we should focus on what makes us truly happy (and if you think that everyone would result eating pizza and not moving an inch then you are wrong because no one ever feels radiant after a binge). If we shift to this mind frame then we will be happier, and happiness leads to health.

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