How Healthy Are You Really?

NO. 
Traditionally, Christmas is a time of fabulous excess, all twinkly lights and second helpings, followed (in a very British way) by several grim, grey months of punishing ourselves, with resolutions thrown about willy nilly for strict exercise regimes and absolutely no pudding.

It’s no secret these days that we’re pretty obsessed with our waistlines and our bulges, and I’ve definitely spent a few New Year’s Days firmly resolving to eschew the biscuit aisle for a good few months (and never mind that such resolutions rarely stick, ironically piling a second helping of guilt on top of the first).

But I think we’ve forgotten (or perhaps been told to forget) that how much you weigh is not the only measure of how healthy you are – or even the most important one. This was such a revelation to me that I’ve been thinking about it ever since, and I’d like you to take a moment and read that sentence again.

Back with me? I’ll explain. I’m not trying to say that being overweight (or underweight) is healthy, and I completely accept that it can put you at increased risk of certain health problems. What I do want you to realise that your weight is just one aspect of health among many that each have their own associated risks. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to cut risk out of your life – so you have to pick your battles.

First of all, there are other aspects of physical health. What you eat is one of them – even if you’re not putting on weight, if you’re not getting your fruit and veg and you’re filling up on lots of fatty foods, you could still be putting your body at risk – regardless of how good you look in your bikini.

Maybe...?
Exercise is another one – if you’re a bit overweight but you still exercise regularly, then you’re getting a whole load of physical benefits, like boosting the health of your heart. That’s why it’s important to take regular exercise no matter what shape you are – because it’s not all about how many extra pounds you’re carrying. And your attitude to drinking, smoking and drugs is another really important aspect – if you don’t smoke or take drugs, and you drink in moderation, then you’re already one up on a huge chunk of society.

But even physical health isn’t the be-all and end-all. Psychological health is so often neglected that most people don’t even think about it, but it has its own serious risks. Self-esteem is a huge part of psychological health that, unfortunately, is taking a real battering from the current preoccupation with physical appearance.

Your work/life balance is another really important factor in psychological health – not to mention the fact that too much stress can have really serious implications for your physical health too. And how healthy your relationships are is another key indicator – if you have a good relationship with your family, or you’re in a stable, happy romantic relationship, then that’s a big tick on the health checklist.

I’m not trying to freak you out – honestly. What I really want you to realise is that everything on the list is important, and everyone will have ticks in different places. Nobody – really, honestly, nobody – can have them all. I’m not a skinny person (I think having a food blog might be something to do with that) but I eat well, cooking from scratch with plenty of fresh ingredients, I don’t smoke or drink much, I love my job and my relationships are in pretty good shape.

YES. (If you like.)

So this Christmas, whether you fancy second helpings or not, and whether you go for that post-roast hike or fall asleep on the sofa, and whether you can’t wait to see your family or would rather run away and lie on a sunny beach somewhere by yourself, stop worrying. You can’t win them all, and chances are, you’re doing just fine.