While eating my lunch outside recently, the woman next to me leaned over, pointed at the muffin I had taken out of my bag and said, “That looks really good! Is it healthy?”

What she was really asking was:

  • Is it low carb?
  • Does it have sugar?
  • Is it clean?
  • Will it fit into my daily calorie count?

When we think of what “healthy” means, the things that generally come to mind are exercise, vegetables, weight loss… all aspects of physical health. And this is problematic because holistic health and wellness is about so much more than our physical bodies.

When we limit the conversation of health to only physical, we’re discounting the importance of mental, emotional, social and spiritual health.

When we skip dessert, we’re being healthy.

When we wake up before the sun to go to the gym, we’re being healthy.

When we do a crazy intense HIIT workout, we’re being healthy.

And no doubt, there are times when these behaviours can contribute to overall wellness. But the problem arises when we completely neglect, even damage, other aspects of our health in pursuit of physical health.

Sometimes eating a brownie after a bad day genuinely makes us feel better. That’s mental health.

Sometimes sleeping in and skipping the gym because you were out late with friends is the better option. That’s social health.

Sometimes a calming yoga session is much more needed than a high intensity interval workout. That’s spiritual health.

So yes, dessert is healthy.

Skipping the gym is healthy.

Taking it easy instead of going hard during a workout is healthy.

Because health is about more than your weight, or your daily calorie burn, or how many times you’ve been to the gym this week.

Your mental health matters. Your spiritual health matters. Your social health matters. And your emotional health matters. These things are just as important as your physical health.

Oh and back to the beginning of the story. My muffin contained sugar. And butter. And it wasn’t one of those muffins with a chopped up veggie stirred into the batter. But it was exactly what I wanted at that moment.

“Yep, it’s healthy!”