Do I Look Healthy?

I’m not even going to bother with any preamble, I’ll just get right to the point: the images of ‘health’ you’re sold by the media have sod-all to do with being healthy.

First of all, what’s ‘healthy’? I guess you could say that if you’re healthy your body is functioning as it should without injuries, illnesses, imbalances or deficiencies, and that you feel well physically and mentally. Or if you’re feeling particularly nihilistic you could say that all it means is that we’re able to reproduce and continue the species, because let’s face it, nature only wants us for one thing.

Whatever your definition of health, you’ll note that unusually defined musculature isn’t mentioned.

Most of us don’t have visible abs. If visible abs are the arbiter of what’s healthy, then most of us are in pretty shite nick. We all have abs, of course – even your laziest, lardiest friend has abs. If they didn’t they’d collapse like a concertina every time they tried to not be lying down. But being able to see them through your skin is no indication whatsoever of your overall state of health. It’s viewed as aesthetically pleasing, in certain cultures in certain periods of time, but that’s about it. If you wanted to be a hot piece of ass in Tudor England you’d have blacked out your teeth so they looked like they had rotted away. Try that now and ain’t no one commenting on your glowing health, if you can even persuade anyone to go anywhere near you.

Sometimes ill people have an appearance about them of being unhealthy, or of something not being quite right. But ‘glowing skin’ (god, that term is a pet hate of mine), visible abs and thick, luscious hair have nothing to do with it. Glowing skin is produced by make-up, sebum (your naturally produced skin oil) and lighting – Skin. Doesn’t. Glow – abs are made through a shitload of specific training, a strict diet, or both, and some of us are lucky enough to be born with a Pantene mane, others not so much. It’s not reflection on your health, it’s a reflection on your genetics and the contents of your make-up bag.

It’s well known that if you want to get to the top of your game in a competitive sport, you’ll almost definitely end up going down the wrong side of the exercise-health bell curve. The amount of flogging yourself necessary to get you to the Tour de France is no longer doing your physical health any favours, no matter how shredded you look. There’s evidence that long-distance running is linked to a shortened lifespan. Taking ‘healthy’ activities to their extreme will eventually start to do you more harm than good.

The word ‘moderation’ is massively unsexy in the world of nutrition and fitness, but your body likes moderation. Your mind likes moderation. Moderation is good. It’s ok to look like someone who exercises moderation.