Most people I speak to do not believe that they are healthy. And if we accept that 2/3 of the population is overweight or obese, then it’s fair to say that the majority of people are indeed not healthy.
And so it’s no surprise that most of the advice we are given is to “be healthy”.
– eat healthy foods
– stop eating high fat or high sugar foods
– get lots and lots of exercise.
I think this is great advice. But I do not think it is helpful advice.
You see, I am health realist.
This means that I think it would be absolutely fantastic if everyone:
1. Ate ONLY healthy foods
2. NEVER ate high fat or high sugar foods
3. Would wake up every morning and exercise for 2 hours
BUT I DON’T THINK IT WILL HAPPEN.
When we tell people to be healthy, what it often does is draw sharp contrast between where they are now and where they “should be”. And for most people the gulf seems so large that it is easier to bury their heads in the sand and avoid the issue altogether.
As a health realist, I don’t believe in the “all or nothing” approach to health. I appreciate that there is an ideal that we should be aiming for, but I will never let the ideal get in the way of progress. I know that even losing 5% of body weight has significant health advantages and so when I see people give up because they can’t get to the ideal, then I think we have done them a disservice.
This is why I say that the aim should not be to “be healthy”. It should be to “be healthier”.
Not everyone feels that they can “be healthy”. But I’m sure almost everyone believes they can “be healthier”.
A realist approach to health is about setting reasonable goals and making small manageable changes; appreciating the reality of the person’s current situation and working within those limitations. Once an initial (smaller) goal is accomplished it’s easier to build on these victories than to aim big from the outset.
As Voltaire wrote: “Perfect is the enemy of good”. Be healthier rather than healthy.