Why The Word 'Healthy' Is In Serious Need Of A New Definition

 WTF does "healthy" even mean these days?

WTF does "healthy" even mean these days?

What do you think of when you hear the word "healthy?" Salads? Stairmasters? A specific body type? 

Well, you probably won't be shocked to learn that "healthy" really doesn't have a clear cut definition.

Companies have been allowed to slap the word "healthy" on products, in the hopes you toss them into your cart when you decide you want to be healthier. But in 2015, the FDA slammed the company KIND with a warning letter, advising they remove the word "healthy" from several of their bars' labels.

KIND didn't take the warning lying down and responded with a citizen's petition. The petition urged the FDA to update the criteria foods must meet to use “healthy” on the label. The whole thing ignited a fierce debate between the food industry and health professionals.

Two years later, there hasn’t been much progress. The question is; can you actually define healthy? Who will benefit more from a revised legal definition: Consumers or industry? It’s becoming obvious it won’t be us.

Webster defines healthy as being "free from disease or pain: Enjoying health and vigor or body, mind or spirit." From a consumer standpoint, we have been sold an idea of health as related to weightloss. Because weight is the only factor of health? Wrong. Pinpointing a single factor isn’t the way to improve overall health. 

Most of the products and programs play musical chairs with macronutrients. Remember the low-fat phase? When we all got hooked on low-fat foods loaded with added sugar. Then, the low-carb kick, when fruits were too many points to eat? Then, it was low-carb, high fat, high protein. STAHP.

The last few years, it's become all about hitting RESET via juice cleanses. But cleansing just strengthens the diet culture cycle of "eat, guilt, restrict, repeat." The opposite of long-term change or any ounce of true happiness.

It doesn’t erase or cover up our lack of physical activity, poor mental health, crushing debt, other problems which also have an impact on our overall health. Let’s not even get started with whatever that plastic wrap or "tea tox" shit is. I just can’t okay?

Real talk: We have to flip the script on how we define health. Another way to think about health is “What can I do to take care of myself so I can start living the Baddie Winkle life right now?” That Instagram wonder woman has done a lot of things in her life—but she isn’t a confident, vibrant person because of a juice cleanse.

Really. Take a moment and think about it. What brings you joy and makes you smile? What makes your body feel great, alive, and well? That is what health is about. Ask yourself, “Is this [insert activity, food, habit] going to improve my mood, reduce my risk of chronic disease, or increase my quality of life, long-term?”

It’s time to stop buying into an idea of "health" and start owning your own. Start embracing your internal Baddie and doing things daily that make you happy.

Alexandra Reed is a registered dietician and nutrition coach.

Words: Alexandra Reed
Photo: Daria Kobayashi Ritch