I had a potential client reach out to me and said she wanted to be more healthy. My first question to her was, “what does a healthy look like to you?” She had no idea how to answer.
I ask the same question each time I meet a potential client. And I typically get the same response as the woman mentioned above. That’s not surprising. The idea of healthy has been distorted for decades.
I personally believe that the common misconception of a healthy body is the product of the line being blurred so much between “good health” and “good body” that no one has any idea.
The reason I ask that question is because anytime you work with a new coach it’s important to know what your idea of healthy is, and why. So I ask, “what does healthy look like to you?”
No 2 Bodies are the Same
Let’s face it, not all of us are lucky enough to be naturally born with a body and frame of a professional athlete. So why do you expect to carve the same body as them?
Let’s talk about muscle development. Perfectly toned muscles is typically the first factor that comes to mind when most of us think about what healthy looks like.
In a general sense, muscle development has the same physiology in each person. Your body breaks down muscle proteins during exercise and then repairs and replaces damaged cells after you workout when it fuses muscle fibers together to form new proteins. Muscle growth happens when the rate of muscle protein synthesis is greater than the rate of muscle protein break down. This doesn’t happen when you do a badass core workout or lift weights. It happens while you rest.
Why Muscles Develop Differently
The process of protein synthesis is the same in every person. However, many other factors that are unique to each body can disrupt this process. This includes nutrient deficiencies, hormone imbalances, missing amino acids (glutamine), or a bad diet.
There are 3 ways to make muscles grown – tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress. These three processes are dependent on your body working optimally as a whole unit.
For example, if your immune system is not functioning properly, damaged muscles cannot repair properly because they need a healthy inflammatory response from your immune system to activate cells.
Muscle growth also relies on glycogen to help swell the muscle along the connective tissue growth. Glycogen is formed as your body converts carbohydrates into glucose. When your body has enough glucose for energy, it converts the excess glucose into glycogen. Glycogen is then stored in your liver or muscles. If your body doesn’t have enough glucose in the blood for energy, glycogen reserves are converted into glucose.
Prolonged exercise depletes your glycogen reserves quickly, especially if you exercise without eating several hours prior. That’s another reason you should not double up workouts if you want optimal results.
How Hormones Affect Muscle Growth
Your body relies largely on two hormones for muscle growth – insulin and testosterone. Most people associate testosterone with muscle growth. That’s because it increases protein synthesis, slows down protein breakdown, and stimulates other hormones. This is one reason men can grow muscles at a faster rate than women.
Insulin, more specifically the Insulin Growth Factor (IGF), regulates the amount of muscle mass growth by enhancing protein synthesis, sends amino acids to muscles, and activates an immune system response. Insulin is also what regulates glucose in the bloodstream. If you have too little or too much insulin, then your body can’t regulate glycogen stores and blood glucose properly. If you have metabolic syndrome and diabetes, it can hinder muscle growth.
The Body Image Epidemic
If you want defined abs, a thin waist, or big muscles because that’s what you consider healthy – or what the fitness influencers on social media tell you is healthy – it might be time to evaluate your idea of healthy.
Having an unhealthy body image is just that – unhealthy. Your body is different and many factors determine how thin your waist is or how defined your muscles can get.
Many of you likely think body image is a female issue. I’m here to tell you that negative body image is not gender exclusive. According to a study done by Bradley University, more than 90% of men struggle with a negative body image. I am one of them! A survey by Glamour magazine found that 97% of women have a negative body image.
What’s more alarming is that both studies found that a large majority of people with a negative body image do not seek nutrition information. The No. 1 consequence of this is the development of an eating disorder or an unhealthy relationship with food. This may include over-fasting, constant dieting, or binge eating.
This is why it’s time we re-evaluate our idea of “healthy.”
What Healthy Should Look Like
I ask again, “what does healthy look like to you?”
Most of you know when you feel good and when you don’t. General healthy factors include whether or not you have a properly functioning digestive system, quality sleep, a well-performing body and mind, and are generally pain free with little to no inflammation. While those are general terms, the idea of healthy is going to look a lot different for you than someone else.
If you want perfectly defined abs and muscles, that may mean you have to give up all social eating and drinking. If you want to lose weight, it may mean you have to increase exercise and decrease calorie intake. Achieving ketosis may increase your focus, but how restrictive is your diet? Is it worth testing your blood glucose several times a day or developing toxic behavior around eating? Ask yourself if the strict restrictions to meet your idea of healthy is worth it? Maybe it is. Maybe it is not.
Work with a Coach to Set Realistic Goals
As a health coach, I’m here to support you in your journey to achieve your health goals. That means having conversations about realistic goal setting, how realistic is it to follow a strict diet, and what has stood or is standing in the way of you reaching those goals. That’s why getting an understanding of what “healthy” looks like to you is important.
One thing I may ask you to do before our initial consultation is to create two lists – “ideal fitness” and “ideal lifestyle,” and then list your “in a perfect world” goals underneath. Your “ideal fitness” goals may include, reducing body fat, running a 20-minute 5K, or bench pressing 300 pounds.
Your “ideal lifestyle” list might include changing careers, eating healthier, sleeping on a schedule, or spending more time with friends and family. Once you have your lists, rank them in order of importance. This will help you get clarity as to what “healthy” means to you.
Let me help you get a better understanding on how you can achieve “healthy” and put you on the path to building a better you with the Very Well Philosophy. I will teach you how to eat, exercise, and make lifestyle changes to accomplish your goals and give you the why behind it!
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Medical disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. While I am a certified nutritionist and wellness coach, I am not providing healthcare, medical, or nutritional therapy services or attempting to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any physical, mental, or emotional issue. The information provided on this website or any materials provided by Very Well Wellness is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Always seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before undertaking a new health regimen. Do not disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical advice because of information you read on this website or any materials provided by Very Well Wellness. Do not start or stop any medications without speaking to your medical or mental health provider.
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