This is healthy...but whose healthy is it?...
There has been much debate on the word “healthy” since the publication of Cosmopolitan’s February 2021 issue which featured the tag “This is healthy!” and an accompanying article. The article begins by explaining how healthy can be a loaded word, comparing it to that of a fingerprint.
This really got me thinking about what it is to be healthy, what it means for me.. Well, for me, it means managing symptoms in relation to PCOS and preventing long term comorbidities associated with PCOS & Obesity. PCOS is a common disorder, affecting approximately 1 in 5 women, but you ask anyone of them what it is to be healthy and you could easily hear thousands of different definitions.
Health is a subjective concept. It is what it means to you. Health sits on a continuum, constantly changing as we develop across the lifespan. Health goes beyond an absence of illness, we acknowledge now the importance of psychological wellbeing. Health really cannot be reduced to one denominator which it often is & unfortunately for many people that common denominator is weight.
Outcries of “glorifying obesity” emerged subsequent to this publication. Is it possible that people can be healthy and have obesity? It depends I suppose which lens you are looking through. Perhaps the bigger question here is not what it is but who decides what healthy is? Is the word loaded with power?
Let’s use myself as an example. I consider myself to be healthy but I have PCOS and Obesity. I do not have any other conditions. My Doctor on the other hand would think I was unhealthy. My parents? they would perhaps consider me unhealthy too because of my weight. Then there is society, how would I be judged? Most likely as the women in the article were judged. Even then society is divided, so too is the medical community.
What does this tell us? That health is socially constructed & complex and there are issues of power within health that are reflected in the language we use about our bodies. Some of these women are taking back that power. They may be finding it empowering to do so and this in turn, for them, gives them health. We really must stop conflating weight with health.
After all, there is a wide range of factors at many levels influencing and determining people’s health including wide inequalities and social & environmental factors. Should we try instead to understand what it means to that person, the individual, to be healthy? Ultimately you decide about your health but it doesn’t stop others having opinions on it.
© PCOS Vitality 2021