How do you define ‘healthy?’

Considering the varying definitions of the term ‘healthy’ is like an intricate spider web.

I polled a handful of folks and turns out, we each define healthy differently. For me, at the end of the day, I like to learn from doctors and experts, research, and our very own community as to what they each deem healthy. In my eyes, this positions me to go home and fine tune the things that lead to a healthier life. 

Merriam-Webster defines “healthy” as, “Enjoying health and vigor of body, mind, or spirit.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) explains “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

The Internet is littered with definitions, ways to lead a healthier life, instructions on how to be healthy, and how to develop healthy habits.

For example: When I type in ‘healthy’ on Google about 6,010,000,000 results are retrieved. Where to start?

Taking the U.S. as an example, I certainly believe there are certain regions that promote ‘healthy,’ like it’s going out of style. I wish I could say their promotion includes ‘physical, mental, social, and disease prevention,’ but it primarily focuses on the physical aspect.

You know the promotion. Take the 30-day class challenge, survive solely on greens and soups for 7 days, fast as long as you can, exercise on an empty stomach, and sculpt your abs at home with this simple machine. Those are just a few of the things that have been thrown my way during my adult years. 

And then there is the other end of the spectrum, where some regions of the U.S. don’t focus much on health considerations. One example I can use is areas where it’s nearly impossible in restaurants to order egg whites (or egg substitute) in an omelet. 

As has been revealed, magnified, and dispelled via social media – what’s shown and what the reality is – can be starkly different. We have folks promoting drinks, powders, meals, and supplements that have never consumed them or lived a truly healthy life. Likely their involvement is due to the amount of followers they have and not solely because they’d be a great candidate that really mindfully embodies the aspects of health.

Though, we all have followers. That is not unique to social media.

My 89-year-old aunt doesn’t have social media, but she has followers. She influences me, her kids, her grandkids, and her neighbors. Many of her followers verbalize that they are listening and value her advice/opinion and sharing of life’s lessons over her nearly nine decades of life. 

It can surely be difficult to pivot and formulate our definition of ‘healthy’ when we are heavily influenced by online presence. Being healthy, living a healthy life, and choosing healthy snacks can seem like a media sensation.

“Ageing occurs in spite of the presence of complex pathways of maintenance, repair and defence, and there is no ‘enemy within.’”*

My aunt is a good example of one who has experienced multiple health conditions (kidney issues, pneumonia, and sepsis just to start). She sees her doctors, she listens and applies healthy, helpful habits that have given her this long life. To top it off, she is looking forward to birthday #90! She is not down on herself, irritated with health conditions (and living through the Covid-19 pandemic) – she is the opposite. That includes being grateful for another day, making memories, and spreading her positive spirit to her loved ones. 

I’m sure she would easily tell you she has re-defined ‘healthy’ multiple times throughout the course of her life. 

“Health and survival of an organism is a dynamic tug between the occurrence of damage and the processes of maintenance and repair.”*

“Health is often described either in the context of the absence of one or more diseases or as a vague concept of well-being, without having any objective measures for that.”*

Something I had not thought about, but makes sense, was retrieved from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Creating a new definition of what it means to be healthy (2016), amplifying “Americans defined health as what they did not have. For instance, people who defined health as a ‘mental balance’ were those who worried the most and get the least sleep. Could defining health by what we’re struggling with be undermining health?’”

However you choose to define ‘healthy’ is for you and only you to decide.  

I feel good with my definition today, which, in one sentence is: 

Knowledge of foods, movement, and daily rituals that influence my decision-making on all fronts in an ability to live a long life with fewer illnesses, better flexibility, and alertness.    

My focus as a parent will be to foster good health in my children. My hope is to inspire balanced health in each of you reading this.

My mission is to bring our communities together, uncovering all the facets of health, and encouraging support and compassion toward one another. My inspiration for all of these is my parents. 


*Suresh I S Rattan (2013) Healthy ageing, but what is health?, July 2013  

Coming next:  What lies beneath the surface of disease? A look at the genetic factor