By Ammi Midstokke
Reader Health Columnist
I’m just kidding. There’s no healthy kind of donut. But you’re already reading so you might as well continue. Also, it could be emotionally healthy for you to eat a maple bar. Let’s explore:
What is health anyway? Everywhere we look, we are inundated with “better choices” and “heart healthy” and “paleo nachos” (they are amazing!) without ever really asking ourselves, “How does this apply to me?”
Our antiquated definition of health used to be “free from disease.” Maybe I’m biased because I am a nutritionist and don’t exactly attract well people, yet what I see is that most of us actually have some kind of disease process or chronic ailment rather as a reality of having a body with a history.
From autoimmunity to the wear and tear of age (or as some of my more honest patients note: four martinis a day from 1961-1969), most of us are faced with temporary or permanent conditions that suggest we cannot meet that definition of health.
The CDC now defines health as not merely the absence of disease (because that isn’t challenging enough) but mental, emotional and physical well-being.
I don’t know who those crackpots are or how many therapists they are simultaneously employing, but that sounds like a nirvana state only to be achieved once we have detached from mind and body, having sailed onward to the great thereafter. As if keeping up with our bodies wasn’t hard enough, now we aren’t healthy unless we’re in fulfilling marriages, exciting work engagements, have a clean house and are practicing yoga instructors?
The magazines and media that surround us are constantly defining a culturally acceptable state of health. It likely involves weird food restrictions, fitting into a size-whatever, dropping 15 pounds after Christmas, or “beating depression forever.” If we continue to stare at these improbable facades of health, we will throw our arms up, declare ourselves incapable of the impossible and bury our sorrow in those donuts. Or gluten-free yogurt-covered pretzels — another highly rewarding food but lacking the social stigma of gluten.
Let’s pause for a moment and consider ourselves, our lives, and our own unique definition of health. Ask yourself this: What is health to me? Is this achievable? And how?
For some of us, in fact many of us, that means living full lives of vitality and impact despite having disease or a bum knee. It means being a strong and happy hiker who lugs an extra thirty pounds up those trails because, well, donuts. It means running marathons to deal with childhood trauma. It means taking a nap because that is more urgent than the dishes.
Most of all, it means being resilient and finding balance in the reality that is our lives: They are busy, sometimes chaotic, impacted by things out of our control, occasionally involve too much pie, and have conflict in our marriages from time to time.
Health is a reflection of how gracefully we handle these things. It does not require an absence of them, but the compassion to allow them. Health is the ability to come back to that original question for yourself, to identify and manifest the changes you need and want to create balance again.
And remember, health is not a state at which you arrive and remain. It is more like a teeter totter, with donuts on one side and kale salad on the other. Just try to keep it moving gently.
Ammi Midstokke is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner in Sandpoint. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.