Why is eating healthy important? In these days of confinement this question gets far more attention. That is because to sit at home all day comes with the imminent risk of over-eating and under-exercising.
It takes quite some self-discipline to eat healthily and to stay in motion when locked up inside four walls.
But what is ‘to eat healthy’? Does this mean that we have to eat healthy foods and drinks? Most dietary professionals also suggest certain food consumption behaviors. For example, we need:
- To chew our food well
- Take and mark our time to eat
- Drink enough water
- Eat fresh produce
- To vary what eat from one day to the next
Table of contents
What is eating healthy?
Of course, most of us already try to balance our intake of calories, vitamins, carbohydrates, and proteins. Some of us follow specific diets. Such as the ketogenic or the paleolithic diet. We think it’s worthwhile to study all those diets and to try them.
Take your time to pick an diet that suits you best. However, it’s also good to be lenient with ourselves. It’s no problem to incorporate a ‘cheat day’ in our dietary habits.
What is healthy?
In this article, I would like to focus less on food, and more on the subject of health. Because what exactly means health in ‘healthy food’? There are many people who tell us which foods and drinks are supposed to be healthy. However, do they also explain how we can experience that we’re healthy?
We think that before we are able to improve our health, it’s good to know where we stand. What is our health at the moment? How can we find out? How do we know how healthy we are? What is healthy anyway?
Health is not merely the absence of disease
The World Health Organization of the United Nations (WHO), defined health for the first time in 1948. The WHO described health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’
During the many years after the introduction of this definition, it caused a growing anxiety amongst health professionals. The discussion gradually centered on 2 issues. The first was the ambitious character of ‘complete wellbeing’. The second issue was that the definition was not able to incorporate changing disease patterns.
‘Complete wellbeing’ is a rather ambitious goal. However, this goal was probably never implied in 1948, as we understand it today. The healthcare industry was not that sophisticated as at present.
The ambition of ‘complete wellbeing’ incites the risk that we start to believe that when it comes to our health, we depend ‘completely’ on the healthcare system. Another objection is that ‘wellbeing’ is a subjective, personal state of feeling.
Changing disease patterns
The second issue with the WHO-definition is that it does not incorporate changing disease patterns. In 1948 those who died, usually died of ‘acute’ illnesses. At present, we survive with one, but mostly more, chronic diseases.
This second issue is, however, somewhat flawed. It’s based on rather shaky grounds. The average life-expectancy in the Western World already started to rise way ahead of 1948. For instance, in The Netherlands already from 1870 and onward. This was mostly due to better food. Later, but with far less impact on our health, life-expectancy also rose due to sanitary provisions and healthcare improvements.
Is our health sacred?
The contribution of our healthcare system to our live-expectancy has always been relatively small. Although, I admit, it’s nice to be able to visit a doctor when we’re ill. We should be aware though that this does not by itself contribute to a higher life expectancy or more health.
At present, the WHO uses a totally different definition of health. Health is ‘an integrated biopsychosocial model of human functioning and disability’. However, this new definition is so complicated that only professionals understand it.
This new definition also focuses on health as the absence of disease. We don’t think that health is ‘merely the absence of disease’. So this again raises the question: what is ‘health’? This question is even more important because we want to know whether all the efforts we take to ‘eat healthy’ will pay off.
Perhaps our subjective feelings of well-being, should be considered as a proper health dimension. This opens, however, a totally new Box of Pandora. Extensive and longitudinal research shows that we already connect our health with all of life’s activities. We gradually became to think our health is sacred.
The question is of course how subjective feelings affect our everyday behavior when it comes to our health. Take, for instance, obesity. Obesity is often directly linked to food consumption.
The problem for obese people is that they are often reproached for their lack of self-discipline. However, reproaches don’t offer any support. At the contrary, they make obese people feel patronized, humiliated, and powerless.
However, even when the intentions of obese people are to improve their health, how much and what kind of support is offered them from, for instance, the food industry?
Take for instance companies that pre-produce food, such as pizzas or cereals. They are not allowed to claim that their food is healthy. Since probably no food-processing company will state that their food is unhealthy, we have to figure out ourselves the health consequences from the mandatory information on the packaging.
That is quite time-consuming. Besides, we often need a looking glass to be able to read the usually very small texts. Even when we’re able to decipher the ingredient codes, the overall question remains: is this healthy? So, in the end, we must draw our own conclusions.
However, much more is possible to tackle obesity. First needs to be analyzed which habits and institutions cause an obese lifestyle. The results of this analysis should be used to secure small and large changes, which support a healthier lifestyle.
For instance, food-producing companies must be coerced into using less salt, sugar, and saturated fats. And supermarkets should be totally rearranged to prevent binge buying of cheap and so-called fast-food.
Why is eating healthy important?
Eating healthy is good for our overall health and feeling of well-being. It is satisfying to be able to take our health into our own hands.
Eating healthy is in fact simple and cheap. From our own experiences, I must say that eating healthy is something that we are able to manage ourselves. If we take small steps it is not too complicated. It even economized our budget. And we feel much better. We also took our time. After each step, we monitored how we felt.
Our monitoring process was much easier when we started to keep a diary. Nothing fancy, we just wrote down in our own words what we ate and drank, what our first observations were, and a couple of hours later, we tried to explain why and how it made us feel then.
Slowly we noticed changes in our eating habits and our budget. We experience every day, for instance by not using any salt or sugar, our food tastes so much better. And we feel really good about it. Just give it a try.
What is your way of eating healthy? Tell us in the comment box below.
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