Eating Disorders Hate the Word “Healthy,” So It’s Time for a New Definition

weight is not worth

“You look so healthy!”

It’s a well-intentioned phrase that friends or family members use to express their approval and relief when someone they love begins to heal from an eating disorder.

There’s just one problem though. To those in recovery, “health” is not a compliment. What is meant as sincere affirmation of the positive strides being taken, the eating disordered mentality interprets and internalizes as proof of a changing body that no longer fits the ideal.

From this perspective, “healthy” equals “overweight.” And “overweight” equals “failure.” Eating disorders thrive off a need for control and rigidity. The illness requires an excessive degree of time, effort and self-restraint. It’s demanding, uncompromising, all-consuming work.

For those caught within its grasp, the eating disorder is an identity, the area they excel in, a “superhuman” strength. Their concept of health has become so distorted, they associate it with mediocrity—a direct violation of the uniqueness they crave.

Reframing the context of healthy:

In the beginning stages of my own recovery process, I encountered the “h-word” constantly which reinforced all the fears and suspicions that my “perfect body” was gone. I had grown accustomed to measuring success based on thinness and didn’t understand the reality of this new message other people were sending me.

I heard, “You’re fat.”

They meant, “Your skin isn’t rough. Your eyes aren’t hollow. Your cheeks aren’t sunken. Your hair isn’t brittle. Your posture isn’t hunched. Your arms aren’t wiry. Your smile isn’t forced. You look more alive.”

So when I reached a state of awareness and receptiveness to the truth behind that word, I began to realize our weight-obsessed culture is in desperate need of a new definition.

First of all…

Health is not a euphemism for “guess what…that ‘thing’ you used to be awesome at—well, you’re not anymore.” 

Health is not a result of losing control over yourself or the behaviors which took you such a long time to cultivate.  

And here’s what else it’s not… 

Health is not spending hours on the treadmill or in the weight-room.

Health is not eating meals that consist of just quinoa, kale and chia seeds.

Health is not allowing a number on the scale to dictate your happiness.

Health is not indulging in dessert then inflicting punishment afterward.

Health is not using exercise for the sole purpose of burning calories.

Health is a holistic fusion of the mind, body and spirit. Health is finding balance. Health is moving because the body is designed to—not because it should conform to an external standard. Health is eating nutritious foods but not being afraid to share Chinese take-out with your friends. Health is not determined by weight or appearance.

Health is wholeness.

Health is vitality.

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