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Health Washing: Part One - Health and Wellbeing.

What Does It Actually Mean To be Healthy and Well?

The terms health and wellness are used a lot across all aspects of our lives but what do they actually mean? What defines the concept of health and wellbeing? It’s important to understand what the true definition of these terms are, in order to then understand how they are manipulated for global profits by the food and fitness industry.

They have been identified as:

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” WHO.

Wellness is defined as “The active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.” Global Wellness Institute.

The Global Wellness Institute also defines mental wellness as “an internal resource that helps us think, feel, connect and function; it is an active process that helps us to build resilience, grow and flourish.”

Why I have also highlighted mental wellbeing here will become relevant in part two of this blog. These definitions don’t mention what health and wellness looks like or how to pursue it, but yet if I asked some of my client’s what they thought being healthy was they would most likely give me tangible examples which can be seen rather than a state of mind or an internal physical stasis. We are all in pursuit of being healthy and well. Why? Because I believe they equal to happiness, contentment, self-improvement, productivity and the awareness of others/environment. These to me are positive outcomes which help shape us to behave like decent human beings. Which is why I use them to guide my personal training business. It’s these concepts I want my client’s to strive for not aesthetic rewards which in my opinion promote the opposite.

“We are all in pursuit of being healthy and well.”

I often hear people say statements like ‘I’m being healthy today’, ‘I’m working on my mental wellbeing at the moment,’ or ‘I need to make healthier choices.’ What do these statements actually mean? They are of course subjective to the individual who has said them. Everyone has an ideal in their head of what it means to be healthy or well. But ask yourself, where does this ideal come from? How did you decide what was healthy or not, well or not? Do you ever question your beliefs? Have you ever considered that the people, organisations and companies that have shaped your ideals around health and wellness are misleading you? We are told that to be healthy we need to eat/don’t eat certain foods, exercise and our body size should be within acceptable norms. Which on the surface appear to be perfectly good guidelines to follow, until agencies with their own agenda get hold of them and people/companies looking to make a profit see an opportunity. Because at that point, your health and wellbeing is immaterial.

As a coach and personal trainer I offer free consultations to potential new client’s. It’s an opportunity to find out what motivated them to contact me and get to know them better. I have learnt over the years that what people say they want from my services isn’t always what they actually need. This can be challenging if the person in question isn’t ready to accept this. I don’t want to tell people what to think and do but opening someone’s thoughts to a different way of thinking allows them to make informed decisions. I have client’s now that don’t agree with all my beliefs surrounding health and exercise but that’s okay because we respect and understand each other’s point of view.

There is a huge difference between what we want and what we need when it comes to health and exercise. Our society has a preoccupation with thinness. Most people think that healthy=thinness and thinness=happiness. Even though we know deep down this is bullshit, we still continue to participate in habits that perpetuate this because we are being conditioned to think like this even if we don’t always realise it. Regardless of who is sat in front of me nearly everyone I work with will discuss their weight, size or eating habits without being prompted to do so. People often say to me “I want to lose weight”. To that I ask, why? (Which often confuses people because there is also an assumption that all personal trainers want you to either lose weight, or put on muscle). They reply “I want to be healthier, fitter or confident”, and I always reply with the same statement. “Have you considered that you can be healthy, fit and confident without losing weight”. And to this I usually get a look of either; I just threw a turd in their face or hopeful relief.

“Have you considered that you can be healthy, fit and confident without losing weight?”

Why do we think all thin people are healthy and happy? Because we are bombarded from all facets of society that this is the case. Government agencies, quango’s, pharmaceutical, food and supplement manufacturing companies, sport and fitness organisations, fitness companies, social media, gyms and personal trainers. Do you think they are filling your brain with these ideals because they have your best interests at heart? No, of course not. In actuality, most of these want you stay ‘fat’ because you will keep coming back over and over again. However they wrap it up and present it, they want something from you (remember this because how they market themselves is the real sneaky bit). Ultimately, they are just ideals not prerequisites and what they are actually doing is making us more miserable, more unhappy and more unhealthy because for most who live in the real world they are unattainable and unsustainable. Do they know this? Yes. Do they care? No. Because while you keep chasing this lifestyle dream they will continue to make money.

Let’s not finish part one all doom and gloom though. Take a look at health from a different point of view. For me and how I explain it to my personal training client’s is that being healthy is about being fit for purpose. What is this? The ability to be able to do whatever it is you want to do. Simply put. So, this might be:

  • Walk up the stairs without being out of breath.

  • Manage or reduce pain which impedes your quality of life.

  • Be better at a sport or activity you love.

  • Be a positive role model to your children.

  • Have your own interests which are just for you.

  • Continue to do a physically demanding job.

  • Help you manage a medical diagnosis.

There’s probably more but you get my point. I strongly believe that when people shift their mindset regarding the concept of health real, sustainable and enjoyable change can occur. I have witnessed it with my own eyes. I have seen that light bulb moment happen with so many client’s. When they finally break the shackles that have been holding them back. I receive messages everyday letting me know what they did in the gym, how they enjoyed it, how they are feeling, positive and proactive experiences they have had. Small, seemingly insignificant things to an outsider but I know have a huge impact on their quality of life, health and happiness. And that, is why I do this job.

Nicola Poole is the ower of Inspired Coaching. With 8 years Personal training and S&C coaching behind her, 7 years of competing in powerlifting at an elite level plus 14 years as a PE teacher she has extensive knowledge and experience in her field of work. Using the mo

to ‘Every Body Fits’ sums up the diverse clientele she works with, operating as an inclusive coach helping people achieve the balance between exercise and life while making sure they get the best gym training possible.

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