Blog: What Does it Mean to Be Healthy?

Guest blogger Marielle Heidebrink, otherwise known as The Detroit Health Coach, on what being healthy means…


Lately, I’ve been bouncing up against all these different definitions of the same word: healthy.

When I talk to clients and yoga students and friends, they invariably use the word healthy to describe the way they aspire to eat or live, and lately I’ve found myself asking, “What do you mean by healthy?”

It turns out healthy means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

For some, healthy means a yogurt for breakfast. For others, healthy means being vegan. For many, their personal definition of “healthy” seems to be shaped by what other people tell them. Healthy is what that magazine said. Healthy is what that new diet recommends. Healthy is what that TV doctor said. Healthy is what someone heard from their friend.

I want us to challenge those outside-in definitions of “healthy”, and instead start crafting an inside-out definition of our own. So now, friend, I’m asking you too: What does it mean for you to be healthy? What does that word, health, mean to you?

Does it mean free of disease?

Does it mean being emotionally or mentally healthy?

Does it mean having a strong sense of self, or well established boundaries?

Or does healthy mean looking a certain way? Weighing a certain amount? Doing certain activities? Wearing a certain size?

Is healthy about how you feel? How you live? Or how you eat?

What happens when the body is physically fit but your heart is broken? Are you healthy, then?

What is you are deep in grief, and going to yoga five times a week? Are you healthy, even then?

What if you spend your days beating yourself up, but you drink celery juice every morning?

Good health consists of more than a set of activities. Healthy is bigger than checking off boxes, and staying up to date on the latest superfoods.

For me, I think that being truly healthy starts with loving all of who you are. It’s about taking care of your whole self in a way that meets your individual needs. Since our lives are always changing, our needs are always changing. Our selves are always evolving.

Healthy means aligning internal needs with external actions. I know it can feel so necessary to go, go, go and yes, there is a sense of meaning that accompanies busyness. And yet, frequently, cardio is not the answer.

Sometimes, the healthiest course of action means slowing down. It means choosing the softer, sweeter path and taking the time to lather our bodies in lavender lotion. Sometimes healthy means drinking tea in the evenings as we sashay around our kitchens to Sade, coaxing the cobwebs from our hips.

Sometimes soft is strong, slow is brave, and gentle is the fiercest form of love we can give. If that’s where you are now, it might be healthiest to leave the cortisol-boosting cardio for other days.

Healthy today is not the healthy of yesterday. Healthy looks different based on our responsibilities and resources. Healthy isn’t about fitting into a box. It’s not about food, exercise, self-care trends. It’s about looking in the mirror and being able to ask, “hey friend, how can I take care of you?” 

And then? Then it’s about being really quiet and listening for the answer.


Marielle Heidebrink
IG: @thedetroithealthcoach

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