In today’s society, many people believe that if you look a certain way, you must be healthy. Instagram models that have a noticeable gap between their thighs are often held up as role models for physical fitness. Covers of so-called health publications often boast about losing weight and having a flat stomach. Reality TV shows often glorify extreme diets that are unhealthy and impossible to maintain.
It’s true that some fit persons have slender frames and a defined abdominal wall and thigh gap. However, this does not imply that these characteristics are required for physical well-being.
When it comes to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) concept of health, appearance has no role at all. Rather than focusing solely on the absence of disease or infirmity, the World Health Organization defines health as “a condition of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.”
How can you know if you qualify under that rubric? Your doctor is the ideal person to answer that question since he or she can assess your health in its whole. Nonetheless, INSIDER spoke with a doctor and a dietitian to understand more about the universal indicators of health. Eight red flags are listed below.
1. You eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.
This easy practice is a defining characteristic of nutritious diets.
Despite its apparent simplicity, “it’s remarkable how many of us don’t do that,” Dr. Cindy Geyer, a member of the True Health Initiative and the medical director of Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts, told INSIDER. It’s true that “we forget to eat, so we’re famished, and then we eat a ton,” but it’s also true that “we eat mindlessly in front of the TV,” or that “we eat in an emotional setting since it’s how we self soothe.”
Even dietitian Rachael Hartley echoed the importance of being in tune with one’s physical needs.
She went on to say, “Trusting your own cues, not external ones, to select what and how much to eat is the hallmark of a healthy relationship with food.” I always tell my customers, “Eat till you’re satisfied, but not stuffed.”
2. You’re eating a varied diet rich in whole foods.
Hartley remarked, “When I look at individuals’ eating patterns, I seek for a wide variety of foods, because a lot of diets exclude particular items.”
She elaborated on the importance of eating a wide variety of foods to guarantee adequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals. This is especially so if you eat a lot of natural, unprocessed foods, which tend to be more nutrient-dense than processed foods.
3. You’re eating enough.
As one expert put it, “in our culture, sometimes people think of healthy eating as, how can you eat as few calories as possible and survive.” As Hartley put it. However, my ultimate goal is to provide adequate nutrition for all. A person’s caloric needs change with age, gender, and level of physical activity. A quick internet calculator will give you a ballpark figure for your own.
Keep in mind that calories aren’t some bad force that must be avoided at all costs. They provide the fuel for your life, allowing you to pursue your passions and enjoy the things that matter most. And if you don’t get enough of them, you may have mood swings, fatigue, joint pain, and other symptoms.
4. You can make it up two flights of stars and feel pretty good.
More power to you if you want to train to become a toned bodybuilder or extreme marathon runner. But if you don’t care about those things, that’s fine, too. One need not engage in great athleticism to enjoy the benefits of physical fitness.
Moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, should be performed for 150 minutes each week for optimal health.
According to Geyer, there is yet another standard by which medical professionals assess their patients’ fitness.
Geyer defined moderate exercise as the ability to “walk reasonably swiftly up two flights of stairs without pausing and feel good at the top.” If you can effortlessly ascend two flights of stairs, that’s a good indicator that your body can handle high-intensity activity and is therefore fit.
5. You embrace your full range of emotions.
Geyer provides a straightforward method for assessing a person’s emotional well-being, which is just as vital as their physical health.
According to Geyer, “emotional wellness” is “embracing the complete range of emotions and realizing that they are all natural.” “Anger, sadness, anxiety, and depression are all normal emotions that everyone might experience. And accepting that each of those feelings is valid and that none of them will last forever is a hallmark of emotional health.”
Much like the theme of the Pixar film “Inside Out,” which states that happiness wouldn’t be as meaningful if you never felt sadness, this idea holds true in this context.
The same is true in coping with pressure.
The key, according to Geyer, is not to eliminate all stressors. To quote the author, “It’s [about] identifying when the stress is present and finding techniques to manage it and deal with it and go on.” There are many methods for dealing with stress that have been endorsed by medical professionals.
6. You can wake up without an alarm clock.
There’s no need to tell you that not getting enough sleep is bad for your health. Lack of sleep has been related to a variety of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease. It’s for this reason that experts recommend getting at least eight hours of sleep each night.
Geyer opines that “if you routinely get up in the morning without an alarm and feel rested and rejuvenated, it’s a very decent measure that you’re receiving great sleep.”
You might think it’s a pipe dream to wake up without an alarm. However, the CDC reports that more than a third of American people regularly suffer sleep deprivation. Maybe if we all slept more, it wouldn’t seem so absurd.
7. You’re not falling asleep too quickly.
Falling asleep in an average length of time — around 10 to 20 minutes — is a clue that your sleep is quite excellent, Geyer noted. But if you’re too quick to conk out, you’re likely not getting enough sleep.
“If somebody’s falling asleep much more quickly than [normal] — like their head hits the pillow and they’re out — that can be a clue that they have a sleep debt.”
Also look out for sleeping while traveling.
“If you sit in the passenger’s side of the car or you get in an airline and you fall asleep regardless of the time of day, that’s a pretty strong indicator that you have a sleep debt,” Geyer noted.