What Do You Mean When You Say ''Healthy?''
While our generation may be the most health-conscious when it comes to their diet, way of living, and daily habits, the word ‘healthy’ itself has transformed completely from its traditional meaning as a medical term for one’s general well-being. Today, it has succumbed to being used to describe society’s standards of an acceptable body type and has been associated with one’s beauty and ability. Not surprisingly, as a single-minded notion for what a healthy individual must look like has taken shape, a number of people beat themselves up trying to live up to this unjust societal expectation.
The word healthy can act as a trigger in multiple forms. The most common of which is body shaming. Having good health has become synonymous with being skinny. Moreover, this ideology has become part of the patriarchal outlook, as a factor in marriages which is glorified in television shows and movies and often plays a role in the career opportunities for one as well. Incessant casual commenting and comparing one’s body structure alongside sarcastic remarks and jokes by one’s friends and family can eventually lead to low self-esteem, irregular and harmful eating habits, and depression. This attitude, mockingly described as ‘desi culture’ can actually do more harm then it may appear.
A major concern with the term ‘healthy’ is the neglect of mental health when talking about the ideal healthy individual. Mental health issues are overlooked or not considered equivalent to physical well-being. The focus of the society tends to remain on the appearance aspect while mental health issues continue being a taboo. Often people are unable to find an outlet for their growing mental health concerns. The flip side to the mental health concern, especially post the pandemic, is the new trend of romanticizing mental health concerns. Many are misguided or misinformed about the severity and seriousness that come with mental health issues. They have been used as a way to look trendy or for attracting fame by teenagers. The saying little knowledge is dangerous comes into play here, when we see large volumes of incomplete information being circulated online. Small issues are over-exaggerated or given heavy labels that do not justify the weight of the situation. By this, the harm is caused to both; those who are facing such problems who consequently feel neglected and angry by the wrong portrayal of what they are going through, as well as those who fall prey to wrong notions and start feeling ‘mentally unhealthy’ simply by overthinking and over-analyzing their emotions.
Conversations about being healthy can also be a reminder or a trigger for those who have experienced eating disorders. It stirs negative notions about being ‘unfit’‘ imperfect’ and ‘not good-looking’. In several cases, it becomes associative to not just the physical but also the emotional trauma from the experience of such disorders and difficulties in recovery that follow. It is known to cause body consciousness and insecurity, leading to a negative impact on one’s personality. Talking about standards of health, without proper thought, no matter what intention it might be said with, can be perceived to one as an insult. It can also result in a setback from the progress that one has made while battling a disorder.
On a concluding note, we must normalize people working on themselves at different stages and acceptance for diversity in how one should look. Being healthy or fit is not a competition, it is a process of growth that is different for each individual. It is necessary to understand that our bodies have different gene structures and store fat differently, metabolism rates differ and dietary needs vary and thus there can be no ideal body type. People come from different backgrounds and have different coping mechanisms; people feel sensitive towards certain topics and react differently to change. We need to work towards busting myths and stigmas related to health in our culture and understand that being healthy looks and feels different for everyone.