What is “Healthy”?

Olympic Diver

I’ve been asked this question in several ways during interviews by medical and marketing people recently.

I was interviewed by a foodie survey that came to my house and looked in my fridge, videotaped and asked me a bunch of questions, this question was interesting. Their goal was to find out how I choose what I eat and what could be done to make me trust food providers (how about transparecy in labeling?). Olympiads are healthy.

I have two confessions to make. I love olympic curling, I’m fascinated by it. Curling is that odd olympic sport where the team has ‘brooms’ and sweeps the ice in front of a stone in order to steer it. kind of like a frozen bocci ball game with a cleaning person. Virtually none of us is capable of olympic diving or gymnastics or a whole host of other olympic sports. There is just no empathy to imagine myself doing gymnastics or uneven parallel bars, or just about any other olympic sport.


Olympic curling. Who couldn’t imagine themselves on a flat surface with a broom sweeping in front of a stone moving at 1mph. I could see myself as a man with a broom on a flat surface in the olympics wearing street clothes and sweeping for a few seconds at a time. Truth be told, i’d probably slip on the ice and hurt myself! Regardless i can empathize, i can picture myself doing a decent job at an olympic sport – that’s worth something!

I could be an olympic curler broom person (a sweeper?), therefore healthy.

But then Mr. Olympiad above I think looks just totally unhealthy

This legend, Naim Suleymanoglu Turkish Olympic triple gold medal champion looks super healthy. Lean, wirey muscular. He was called the ‘Pocket Hercules’. Dead at 50 years old.

I know a diabetic 90+ year old that has been morbidly obese all his life and is still going strong. I also knew a 38 year old athelete who the day after we did a 35 mile bike ride, dropped dead on the tennis court returning a serve. You don’t have to be an olympiad to be healthy. Even an active athelete could be minutes away from sudden death. I could get hit by a bus, or a 737 Max falling out of the sky, as well.

What words describe healthy?

  • All Natural
  • Low Sugar
  • No Sugar
  • Organic
  • Low fat
  • Fat free
  • Whole grain
  • Whole Wheat
  • MultiGrain
  • Nutritious

These are “marketing metrics.” None of them mean healthy to me.

  • Lean
  • 6 pack abs
  • “V” shaped back
  • Bubble Butt
  • “Guns” for Biceps

These are physcial attributes. None of them mean healthy to me. But they are candy for the eye.

My orthopedists office gave me a survey that asked questions like:

  • Can I walk a block
  • Can I walk 10 blocks
  • Can I run for the bus
  • Can I run 3 blocks
  • Can I walk up 1 flight of Stairs
  • Can I walk up 10 flights of stairs
  • Can I lift a bag of groceries and put on the counter
  • Can I put a 5 pound bag of sugar in a cabinet overhead
  • Can I stand for 10 minutes? 1 hour?

I call these “functional” metrics. These define abilities that are healthy.

What does healthy look like?

We don’t know

I broke my leg and had additional complications last year.

  • i HAD to take a cane or crutches.
  • I couldn’t walk down the street
  • I couldn’t walk up or down the stairs.
  • Little old ladies pushing walkers with groceries on the handlebars were passing me on the street.
  • Stepping off a curb was a damn near impossible challenge.
  • I had to take a cab to go to the grocery store just 4 blocks away
  • I lived with the mental pressure that I might never be able to live my full active life again due to pain and physical limitations.

What does healthy mean to me?

  • Being free of debilitating physical pain.
  • Not having mental anguish wondering if the functional abilities I need to live my life are in the past.
  • Functional mobility.
  • Mental acuity.
  • I can tie my shoes
  • I can walk where I want to walk.
  • I can ride where I want to ride.
  • I can go up and down as many flights of stairs as is necessary.
  • I can participate in catamaran racing and other sports that define my life.
  • I know what’s in the food i i eat and reject chemical additives.
  • Healthy is eating flavorful nutritious foods.
  • Healthy is eating foods I enjoy to eat regardless of their fat/sugar/grain/caloric content.
  • Healthy is good blood test results
  • Healthy is having incredible balance on unstable platforms (like a boat).
  • Healthy is colorful

What does “healthy” mean to you?

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