The Word ‘Healthy’ Doesn’t Actually Mean Anything (unless it’s measurable)

Everyone says their goal is to be healthier, it’s the number one new year’s resolution. Most people say it when they’ve just struggled up some stairs or helped someone move. They feel a pang of inspiration and maybe even declare some kind of plan then forget until the next stair case or end of a couch.

Here’s the thing, the word healthy doesn’t mean anything.

Go to the hospital, go to the Ebola ward. Congratulations, you’re now the healthiest person in the room.

We can all tell what isn’t health, we all recognize what feeling like shit is, but defining things by their opposite is a sucker’s gambit. Furthermore we all know what we see when we picture ourselves healthy – do it right now, visualize a healthy version of yourself and examine the details of that mental snap shot. You can do the same thing, easier perhaps, with the word Rich – in your mental snap shot of rich are you leisurely or businessy? Surrounded by people, lights, and music, or solitary and elegant?

This is why you can be someone else’s idea of rich, or healthy, or smart, or strong, and not feel that way yourself.  You’re describing different snapshots.

This is also why you get tons of bizarre, insistent, and conflicting advice when you announce your plans to get healthy (or wealthy or wise).

I think the other reason people default to the vague notion of being healthy is that in our culture it’s not okay not to like yourself. We’re obsessed with confidences and faking it til you’re making it and so we have to be euphemistic about what and why we want to change.

If someone (especially women) say to a group (especially women) that you want to be thin to feel more attractive they will yell at you. Literally yell at you.

After being angry at you and implying you’ve let all of human progress down (especially women’s) they’ll tell you you’re perfect and you have to love yourself before loving someone else and people should care about the real you and suddenly you’re a children’s TV show.

Similar situation but nowhere near as dramatic or gendered if you say you want to be stronger. People, people who care about you honestly if not insightfully, will say no you don’t. They’ll convince you that you don’t want or need that, that work is hard and life is fun, and the mutual excusing society wants you to go on being a member.

This is why you have to have, and announce, measurable goals and the strategy you’re going to use to attain them.

  • I want to run a 10k race so I’m taking up jogging
  • I want to lose 20lbs so I’m cutting carbs
  • I want to not feel like I was born in jar because I sit at a desk all so I’m going to yoga

If you want to get to that picture in your head you have to make it as clear as possible and you have to track the progress you’re making along the way. If all you want is to not feel like shit going up the stair then you’re going to have to take the stairs a bunch and track how much like shit you feel each time, otherwise you’ll end up avoiding stairs until some moment you can’t and then you’ll wish you’d started getting healthy the last time you said you would the last time you couldn’t avoid stairs.

Being vague is just a pre-failure excuse. Measure everything and leave no doubt.

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