I am so excited to introduce our #FeatureFriday blogger! Margaret Stuart from Margfit.com is a fitness enthusiast who is passionate about helping others achieve their fitness goals. She dropped by the blog today to share with us her definition of health while being chronically ill.
Why I Have A Different Definition Of Health
I am currently in my last semester of college, finishing out my degree in Public Health and in all my courses we talk about the definition of health. What I have gathered from all of the Public Health classes I have taken over the years is that being healthy and adhering to the accepted definition of health requires a person to be free of any disease. However I disagree with that idea. As I was sitting in class this morning, my professor was talking about all of the different definitions of health, for example the definition that has come from the World Health Organization which states that health is, “a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. We also discussed other definitions that have been published in many different health education textbooks, biology textbooks, and different public health textbooks. As all this discussion was going on I started thinking to myself that by someone else’s standards I may not be considered a healthy individual. And that was an idea that really rubbed me the wrong way.
All my life I have had different chronic health issues. In high school I had chronic migraines. Most recently I am struggling with some chronic joint pain, and four years ago I was diagnosed with lymphocytic colitis. Colitis is a chronic disease that puts my colon in a lot of pain, and for me that pain can occur if I eat gluten, or dairy, or if I have a particularly stressful week, in addition to a number of other, sometimes inexplicable, things. Having this chronic illness does not define me; sure it may limit me in some ways like in the foods that I can eat, but it in no way has limited my overall ability to live a healthy life. So in class when my professor was explaining that health is the absence of disease, I had to disagree. I did not raise my hand to verbally, and very publically in a 300-person class, disagree. But in my mind I thought that that is in no way my definition of health.
Yes I do have a chronic illness. Yes that chronic illness limits what I am able to eat. Yes a lot of my food looks like that picture. And yes it can make me extremely uncomfortable sometimes but I have never had it compromise my ability to do any of the things that I love. I am very fortunate that this disease has never compromised my mental, emotional, or spiritual health. My entire life I have always been positive, and have always tried to find the good in everything, so why would I let a chronic illness change my outlook on life? That seems silly to me. With colitis I am still able to exercise; I love going for hikes, riding my bike, and lifting heavy weights in the gym, and only once have I ever had to skip doing what I love because of my colitis. I am very fortunate that my illness does not consume my life, because I know that is not the case for a lot of people. I have a more mild form of colitis, some scientific journals even refer to it as microscopic colitis, so right now it is not ruling my life, and even when it progresses I will never let it.
My chronic illness does not define me. Yes, I am now labeled as the token gluten free friend, and people will often times question the validity of my gluten and dairy sensitivity. But throughout my journey with a chronic illness I have learned that I have to do what is best for my health, and that I have to do special things to make my body happy. I think that having this chronic illness has showed me the importance of having my own definition of health and helped me to figure out what being healthy means to me. I truly do not believe that health is a cookie cutter thing; it varies person to person and even can vary day by day! I believe that optimal health can still be achieved if you have a chronic illness. I live my healthiest life everyday despite the fact that I have a chronic illness! And I truly believe that achieving optimal health is possible for anyone no matter your current health status. Chronic illness should not rule a person’s life; they should rule the chronic illness.
I have been somewhat forced to give into the limitations that my chronic illness has imposed on me. But even after making those dietary changes I live a healthier and happier life. I eat healthy foods like spinach, kale, and quinoa out of necessity, and doing that has helped me to feel my best even when my colon decides not to work. I think that the most important thing for me in relation to my chronic illness is to look at it in the most positive light, and not focus on the minor limitations that I have had to incur because of it. Yeah a lot of my meals end up looking like this, but I don’t mind because eating this means that I’m not in pain.
After thinking about the lecture that I heard this morning, I have decided that my definition of health will be different, and will not adhere to the current health norms because I am different and I cannot be shoved into a one size fits all box. To me, health is a state of somewhat complete physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual health. I have to throw ‘somewhat’ in there because no one can be in a state of optimal health one hundred percent of the time. We’re humans! If you have a chronic illness, do not let it define your life or make you think that you cannot still live a healthy lifestyle because you can! You can do anything you set your mind to! Even if you have chronic pain, or a chronic illness go fourth and conquer each day with a positive attitude, and an ‘I can do anything’ outlook!
Meet Margaret Stuart!
Hello! I am Margaret Stuart! I am currently a senior studying Public Health at The University of Arizona. I love all things having to do with health and fitness. I love to go on long hikes, take long naps, try out new and fun exercises, and write creatively for fun!
Connect with Margaret at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read hers: margfit.com