Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Healthy vs. Pretty Healthy?

I like to read. I also like to write. Getting a good workout is another daily high for me. Combining all three in one sweet multi-tasking session? Let's just say that I don't get much more efficient -- or pleased -- than that.

In the spirit of being a more well-rounded, well-read freelancing writer, I added the January 2010 edition of Redbook to the tower of magazines I borrowed from the library. Magazines and elliptical sessions seem made for each other, and the gym is where I score my quality time with my preferred girly(ish) mags like Health, Body+Soul, and Natural Health in addition to the un-gendered Runner's World and Writer's Digest. I was completely new to Redbook, though.

I didn't really expect much from Redbook, especially from a Redbook with Kelly Ripa on the cover. That didn't stop me from reading it from start to finish yesterday at the gym, though, and from enjoying its surprisingly balanced take on life, body image, diet, and exercise.

I was most struck by the articles collected under the title "How To Be Pretty Healthy." At first I thought that these essays would be about physical prettiness. Instead, they take on the perceived rules of women's health and how those rules stand up in the real world. The following quote from the introduction particularly struck me:
Pretty healthy means, first of all, that your health habits contribute to -- and don't distract from -- your enjoyment of life. When you're pretty healthy, you live in such a way that you don't bring untimely disability or death upon yourself. You have sufficient supplies of energy, and you don't obsess about the state of your body or your mind. Although you may suffer from illness now and then, you still take pleasure in life most of the time and possess the general sense that you can cope with the challenges that come your way (p. 52).
I cannot claim that this has been true in the past five years of my life. Anorexia and over-exercise prevented that. Even now, when I am supposedly "in recovery," food thoughts dominate my brain, as does the urge to exercise, no matter if I actually feel physically up to it. That being said, Redbook's sub-article on "What Exercise Will (and Won't) Do For You" was of particular interest to me. The piece starts off like this:
For many of us, exercise induces the same feelings of righteousness that other people get from going to church -- and if we don't exercise, we feel morally inferior. But it's not religion. It's not even a good deed. It's just exercise (p. 58).
Gulp. Do I think like that? Unfortunately, yes. I'm guilty as charged. As uncomfortable as reading this made me, it also lightened my burden a little. Not only am I not alone in this, but I don't need to make exercise (and, relatedly for me, eating) a fantatical practice. Instead, I can move moderately, and enjoy the many health benefits that come along with exercise that don't involve weight. For me, exercise almost always makes me feel happier. The mood boosting endorphins of getting my sweat on are far more rewarding than calculating my calorie expenditure for the day, or the meager joy in losing a half a pound.

What do you think? Is it enough to be "pretty healthy"? This is something of a loaded question, especially coming from a health living blog. But I do believe that true health is balance, not just impeccably toned glutes.

That's just me, though. What does "healthy" mean to you? And is "pretty healthy" just as good, or better?


  1. That's a really hard-hitting concept. Somehow, just in my mind, "pretty healthy" sounds like a step down from ideal. You know, like "pretty good" isn't quite "really good". I know I'm just "pretty fit" and I eat "pretty clean", but I'm actually okay with it. I think it's all a matter of finding that balance and accepting where your life is at right now, as well as your outlook towards future improvement.

  2. yogiclarebear.comMay 26, 2010 at 8:36 PM

    gosh redbook...insightful?! im impressed. i guess i always stereotyped it, but as what im not sure, lol! i hear you with the musings here beth, you know i do! true health encompasses balance- body mind spirit.


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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King