There are lots of things we can attempt to try and keep ourselves in good health; eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables which in turn are rich in fibre and essential nutrients, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, monitor our weight for any sudden changes, and get vaccinated. Unfortunately, some people have taken these recommended practices and turned them into an ironically unhealthy obsession, and when people fall ill for any reason, the immediate presumption is that it is their own fault for not following these recommendations religiously. Not only this presumption scientifically inaccurate, but it’s also dangerous.
As a young teenager I easily did an hour of exercise every day, be it walking around school, playing outside, or drumming. With a nutritionist parent, healthy eating habits were supported, and my diet was balanced and provided all the nutrients I needed. My fluid intake was decent, and all my vaccinations were kept up to date.
I still got meningitis.
I still got M.E.
I still got asthma, endometriosis, depression, anxiety, gall stones, iron deficiency anaemia, and what we suspect was coronavirus.
I did everything right and I still became disabled. Why?
The answer lies in the single-most important thing I have learned studying nutrition and public health. All of the things you are told to do to keep you healthy are about reducing the risk of disease and disability, but none of them remove the possibility altogether. It’s possible to do none of the above and be perfectly healthy, and it’s possible to do all of the above and be incredibly ill. It’s just less likely than other outcomes. It’s a statistic; that is all.
Going off on a slight tangent, this is why there is significant lash-back against the use of Body Mass Index (BMI) as an indicator of health. BMI was never intended to be used in this way; it is a single measurement that, in conjunction with a multitude of others such as age, fat-to-muscle ratio, blood pressure, total energy expenditure (which incorporates bodily functions as well as exercise), blood cholesterol, bone density, blood test results, and nutrient intakes to name a few, is used to predict the likelihood that someone will develop a particular condition. Other factors such as ethnicity, religion, culture, gender, sexuality, and disability must also be considered if the prediction is to be applicable to an individual, & even then the prediction isn’t set in stone. Taking any one of these factors alone is essentially useless, and shaming someone for having a BMI that labels them as obese is like shaming a blonde for their lack of intelligence; completely non-sensical.
There is so much shaming and blaming when it comes to diet and health, because it is easier to tell someone that their poor health is their own fault rather than consider that, ultimately, random chance has a lot to do with it too. Realising that there is an element of randomness to health means it could happen to you, and that’s scary.
It is still beneficial to try and maintain healthy habits where you can, within your own limits. However, constantly comparing your lifestyle to someone else’s is not going to help, whether that be to blame someone else for their own illnesses, or to beat yourself up for not being as “perfect” as someone else. Focus on what you can do for you, and if that includes indulging in a treat or not being able to exercise, that’s plenty good enough.
So Gwyneth Paltrow and her exploding vagina candles can f*ck right off.