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jenny

When living with a chronic condition like diabetes, can one be healthy despite the 24/7 condition?

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language has the same definition as the Merriam-Webster dictionary for the word “Healthy”.

> Enjoying good health
> Possessing good health
> Free from disease

This word gets thrown around a lot when it comes to exercise, food, mental and emotional health and even hydration. It seems to be an arbitrary word given the understanding of the word takes on different meaning by each person who uses it relative to their personal needs. It gets even more confusing when a popular personality defines what gave them success as the “healthy” option. People end up thinking they need to jump ship from their plan and follow what clearly worked the best for this online influencer.

So, how do we define health?

Here it depends on where you start your search. Are you looking to simply know how to live the best life you can? Then, looking at the word healthy means exploring all aspects of life that would meet the need to truly be in good health or free from disease as long as possible.  Realize this encompasses all areas of life decisions. Exercise or activity to keep our muscles strong, bones intact and blood glucose managed. This would include benefits to insulin sensitivity and even to ensure proper digestive function.  Nutrient-dense intake of a variety of foods. Mental well-being to ensure decisions made are in line with our goals as happiness/emotional factors play a significant role in “health”. Sleep is another area to look at when considering a healthy habit or lifestyle. Poor sleep quality impacts decisions, food choices and energy levels as well as stress levels.

healthy life

You can see that simply throwing the word healthy into any of these areas that impact life seems to imply there is a simple fix to living a good life.  It is frustrating when there is conflicting information about what one group defines as “healthy” compared to another group with different research. Without considering all aspects of life, as a registered dietitian it is unbelievably annoying to see the word in so many places with less-than-optimal definition on the individual level. No wonder so many people are confused about what to fuel their bodies with day to day.  Definition of a healthy diet is consistently shifting from one research article to another with opinions weighing heavily in what is reported.

As we learn more about the role nutrients in food play into optimal life vs disease we should be adapting and adjusting.  What appears to be happening however is a fight between groups that believe their information is what’s right for everyone.

Looking at food as one area to focus, there is a good place to start, and you must consider what it is you are aiming to achieve in making any change to your fueling plan.

Each year a new report by US News and World Report comes out and it highlights the most popular diet trends. The great thing about this article is that it rates the plans with statistical information from research and shows which ones are more likely to promote optimal health. The reports include the pros and cons for each, as well as which one may be better for specific health conditions.  It also includes info about which are the worst with reasons for the lack of long-term health benefits or the reasons why people were unable to stick with the plan for the long haul.

The word “healthy” should be taken to mean you are doing everything to enjoy life free from disease. When living with diabetes, “healthy” can take on the meaning of living life without adding factors that take away from the optimal function of the body. As noted earlier, this means considering food/nutrients/activity/stress and sleep as factors to manage. Each of these has an impact on blood glucose as well as on the action of medication (sensitivity vs resistance). To truly live healthy, we must consider what outcome we want and what area of our life to give focus or energy to. Where our focus goes, energy flows and we can live healthfully even with diabetes.

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