It’s easy to get caught up with how you look. We’ve all been there, looking in the mirror to check out our lines, curves, and muscles (those that are just now showing or those that have seemed to melt away over time). In this day and age, so much has become about what our body “looks” like: how much body fat we have, how defined our muscles are, how our physique compares to that of our peers—and even how our current body compares with that of our younger self. These have become some of the determinants—maybe the most sought-after determinants nowadays—of how healthy we are. But is this a skewed notion? Does it really matter what our body looks like in comparison with that of our peers? Do overall fitness and health directly correlate with how muscular we are?
Let’s start out by batting a few things out of the way. How you look as compared with your peers is completely irrelevant. Just as in weight training, for instance, all that matters is that you’re getting stronger than YOU were before. Everything should be in relation to and in comparison with your own body, not others’ bodies. If you’re really going to be picky about comparing yourself to how you looked in the past, you can keep some pictures of yourself over the years to assess where you’ve been. I’ve done this throughout my athletic career to monitor my progress of body composition. The important thing, however, is to have a healthy mindset; don’t fall into critiquing everything in a negative light. Bring out the positives in your progress. You can even use this comparison as a tool to build confidence and keep the ball rolling in the positive direction.
Don’t fret over precisely what muscles you can see and what muscles you can’t see. The fact that a muscle is visible has no bearing on how strong it actually is, how fit you are, or how good your nutrition is. You could have hardly any muscle tone but be very strong. You could be eating total junk and look incredibly ripped, but that’s not healthy. This applies to other systems. Your aerobic capacity, for example, could be mind blowing while your body shows very little, if any, proof of that. Some of the most incredibly aerobic animals I’ve ever been around, including Olympic medalists in both distance running and swimming, have had very little muscle tone.
“Health” is a tricky word. It’s almost one that you have to use but don’t want to—kind of like “diet.” Many people define diet as an eating plan to lose weight or get in shape quickly. Wrong. A diet is a way of eating for life. It is a way of eating that makes your body feel most poised to perform at its top level. Health, in comparison, can mean so many things in terms of mind, body, spirit, physical injuries, heart health, and so on. It can be very difficult to specifically quantify overall health, which is why I go a lot by feel, especially in terms of what I eat.
Everything I eat is about making my body feel good. Over many years of seeking professional advice from nutritionists and registered dietitians as well as amassing a ton of information from trial and error, I’ve figured out what makes my body perform at its peak. Feeling good and performing at your best is what it’s about, and these two ideas are some of the most basic and important ways to determine how healthy you are.
If you’re interested in starting your own journey to reach your highest level of health, here are a few tips:
We all want to feel good, and we all can attain this. Health is not hard to attain. Putting a few of these tips into practice can make your journey more successful and more enjoyable. Be specific in your plan, and believe that each thing you’re doing is helping you move in the right direction toward better health.