This week marks Eating Disorder Awareness Week in the U.K. There are a variety of factors which contribute to food eating disorders. So much so that pinpointing the precise “cause” of any eating disorder may be a superfluous exercise. Nevertheless, increasing social awareness about the dangers of eating disorders is intended to promote good health. Yet health is a nebulous term. Although we all have an intuitive grasp about what it means to be healthy, the term becomes increasingly abstract upon further reflection.
We live in a society that is obsessed with health without having a clear understanding about what health even means. The term health has become so broad that it encompasses conflicting modes of living. National health food trends vary from the Paleo diet to raw veganism. The problem with national health food trends is that they often leave undefined the output parameter the diet is intended to fulfill. Is the diet intended to increase muscle mass, decrease weight, increase energy, decrease high-blood pressure, or increase energy levels?
It is common for adolescents to equivocate health with weight. It should therefore come as no surprise that anorexia nervosa and bulimia are the most common eating disorders to plague youth. Yet misconceptions about what it means to be healthy extend the folly of youth. Living at the gym is considered an elite form of health, despite being an exhaustive and excessive exercise that can cause the body more harm than good. Creatine is excessively consumed by young men barely passed the age of twelve in an effort to build muscle mass despite being corrosive to the liver. Calorie intake is considered an indicator of healthy eating even though not all calories are created equal. In addition, just because some food is GMO free does mean it is healthy, and just because some foods do contain GMOs does not mean it is the devil’s apple.
So what does constitute a healthy diet? Many people find themselves drowning in a sea of available diets. Fat used to be upheld as the nemesis of healthy eating; whereas it later turned out to actually be foods high in saturated fat. Veganism used to be upheld as the height of healthy eating; whereas now it is superseding by a diet consisting mostly of whole foods. For those lost adrift in the dietary sea, there are some basic indicators that can serve as guiding posts for healthy eating. A diet is deemed effective if it is easy to follow, thwarts heart disease, is high in nutrients and promotes weight-loss.
In addition, health is more than the absence of an eating disorder. It contains an ontological status within its own right. So what does constitute health? In short: health revolves around the quality, rather than the quantity, of life, which can range from mental, physical and even economic well-being. This being the case, the numbers reflected on a scale are not necessarily an accurate measurement of one’s health. Balancing a healthy lifestyle is not a secret buried in the lost city of Atlantis. We would all more or less benefit from a diet rich in nuts, fruits and vegetables, coupled with regular exercise, maintaining mental stability as well as having a sense of belonging.
By Nathan Cranford