Healthy lifestyles look past the mirror

What does being healthy mean?

In 2008 in Arkansas alone, 65.7 percent of adults were either overweight or obese as defined by their body mass index. This equates to an estimated 1.4 million Arkansans, according to a report by the Arkansas Department of Health.

Meanwhile, up to 24 million people nationally suffer from an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorders, said the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa & Associated Disorders. These disorders are also often coupled with depression or anxiety problems.

We are obsessed with organic, green, fair-trade, natural, good-for-you stuff, and yet are killing ourselves with habits that make us increasingly unhealthy.

While our digitally-enhanced models look amazing, we look in the mirror and see someone we do not think quite measures up. We believe the lie and think, if only I could do this one thing a little better, I would look more like the person I idolize.

Our society is often an extremely high-pressure environment. We are constantly trying to do more with less, make our lives easier and earn more than the next guy. We are pursuing the American dream.

These practices are having a lasting effect on personal health. So many problems stem from this lack of time and abundance of pressure. People begin to take short cuts on health. Friends, this is dangerous ground we are treading on.

But wait a minute; I am not really here to chastise society as a whole. That changes nothing.

Really, I want you to take a look at your own life.

Do you believe the generalizations, perceptions and marketing ploys asking you to buy something or do something because they tell you it is “healthy?” Or are you pursuing what is healthy for you individually?

You see, health is a very personal thing. It is doing what is best for you.

First, there is physical health. While it may be just fine for me to eat milk on my cereal or have an extra cookie at dinner, you may be lactose intolerant, diabetic or watching your calories.

For someone trying to lose weight, eating balanced and low -calorie meals is recommended and necessary. Yet for a young person struggling with an eating disorder, the obsessive compulsion to cut calories is anything but healthy. It can be deadly.

People can also be emotionally unhealthy. If I watch a movie or read a book that does not exactly end happily ever after, that may be fine for me. But for a person fighting depression, the vortex of depressed thoughts they sink into because of that entertainment choice could be very tough to escape for hours or even days.

Perhaps your area of illness is in relationships. You may have a strong relationship with your family, your boyfriend, your girlfriend or your roommate. Or that relationship may be feeble, dangerous or emotionally taxing. There are ways to have healthy relationships, and it may not be what the TV or the Internet is saying.

Then there is spiritual health. How is your spirit? Are you taking care of it like you would your body if it were sick? Take care of yourself by having good spiritual disciplines, not just physical and mental ones.

Our habits and daily choices need to be what is healthy for us, not what society is telling us is “healthy.” As you walk through the cafeteria, browse the grocery store aisles, surf the channels or spend time with others and God, resist the urge to compare yourself to others. Do what is right for your body, your mind, and your spirit because in the long run, that is what counts.

I encourage you to strive for true health, inside and out.