Misconceptions About Health
By Vanessa Palencia
Maybe you’ve heard about HAES and maybe you haven’t. If you haven’t, HAES stands for “Health at Every Size” and means exactly that. It’s a movement that challenges our beliefs that a thinner and more toned body is healthier than a larger body. It asks us to recognize that health can occur at any size.
This movement, along with the body positive and self love movement, has been challenging so many die-hard fitness fanatics and anyone who is completely wrapped up in the diet culture to redefine what health actually means. Because health isn’t one-size-fits-all. It never has been and never will be. But since health is something that so many people seek, the topic is congested with an exorbitant amount of people claiming they found the key to true health. You’ll find talks of miracle diets founded on loosely-based evidence, and absurd, yet dangerous, cleanses.
With all of this chatter, it’s become increasingly difficult to figure out what is really healthy and what isn’t. This overload of information can be overwhelming and can even cause people to become susceptible to every single information that is thrown their way. Because of this, the diet industry makes more than $60 billion a year profiting off of people’s insecurities and desperate attempts to obtain a certain level of health. But the thing is, health looks different on everyone. And while I can go to elaborate lengths to try to help you figure out what healthy actually means, I want to tackle what health actually is not.
So I’ve listed some of the top misconceptions I’ve heard about health in my lifetime. But if you’ve heard of other ones, please comment them below!
The thinner or more toned you are, the healthier you are
This couldn’t be further from the truth. You cannot determine someone’s health simply by looking at them, and as HAES would suggest, you can be healthy at any size. You don’t need to have a six-pack, huge muscles, or low body fat to be considered healthy. I’m a 5’4” female with about 30% body fat, no visible abs, and only slightly visible muscles. I’ve got a jiggly butt, my thighs touch, and my stomach shakes when I run. But guess what? I’m still healthy. Why? Because I have no illnesses, my heart is healthy, my cholesterol levels are good, my body is running smoothly, and I’m not lacking any nutrients in my diet. I'm all good.
Superfoods are real
Unfortunately, this isn’t true. At least, not in the sense that you think. You see, the term ‘superfood’ is just a marketing strategy meant to spotlight certain foods and trick you into buying overpriced fruits, superfood shakes, and pills. Every single fruit and veggie is a superfood if you want to look at it that way. So don’t waste your money and just grab your normal haul of fruits and veggies. No ‘superfood’ labeling necessary.
You can’t eat late at night
Stomachs are not restaurants with opening and closing times! Hunger is your body’s way of letting you know that it’s running short on fuel. It’s nothing to be afraid of! But if it’s something you truly want to avoid, then I’d encourage you to reflect on your day’s worth of eating. Maybe you’re not eating enough during the day. Or maybe you’re staying up way too late, so your body needs extra fuel to keep going. So if you can’t feed yourself more substantial foods during the day, and you can’t go to sleep at a decent time, then don’t get frustrated with your body for simply needing more fuel to keep running.
Health is strictly physical
Health is actually a very broad term. We tend to think of the physical aspect of health more often because that’s what the diet and beauty industry have told us to pay more attention to, but health also encompasses our mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. So while being lean and eating only nutrient dense foods is great, you have to also look at everything else if you want to make sure your health is well-rounded. Are you happy? Do you feel fulfilled? How’s your heart? Is your perspective a positive one or negative one?
Detoxes are needed
Nope. There is a difference between eating nutrient dense foods that can help provide your body with the energy and nutrients it needs to keep doing its job versus going on a juicing cleanse to get rid of the toxins in your body. Your body is perfectly capable of detoxing itself! But here’s the thing...it is only capable of detoxing itself if you are feeding it what it needs and your body is thriving as a result! So while I love my chocolate, I know that I need to make sure that I’m getting my healthy intake of vitamins and minerals in the form of my fruits and veggies. But contrary to what many health & fitness gurus say, you don’t need to detox after a long day of eating greasy and/or cheesy foods. All you have to do is simply return to your normal way of eating. No fasting or 3-day juice cleanses necessary.
I hope that clearing out these misconceptions has helped you get a better idea of what health means for you. But remember, health is more than just how you look and what you eat. It's also how you feel and how you see the world. The meaning of health is so complex because it looks different for everyone, but just know that you can find the answer simply by looking inside and doing what feels right.