What is Optimal Health?
I’ve spent the last few years looking more critically at my views of health, fitness, and my own self image. I think a lot of us have. I’ve continued to do more learning about diet culture and its relationship to racism in recent weeks. I attended a wonderful workshop last week on Body Talk: Managing Conversations About Body Image With Your Clients And Patients put on by Jessie Mundell. As I’ve been considering the new things I learned, I’ve been looking at Optimal Health and thinking about what those words mean. Here are our current thoughts.
Fitness is not only for white people.
Fitness is not only for thin people.
Fitness is not only for heterosexual people.
Fitness is not only for gender binary people.
Fitness is not only for neurotypical people.
Fitness is not only for able bodied people.
Fitness is not only for “healthy” people.
Health and fitness isn’t any one thing.
It’s specific to you and your body and your privilege. Going to the gym or eating organic vegetables and grass fed beef & dairy is great, but having the access and the budget to do so is to be in a place of privilege. I’m fortunate enough to be able to make those choices now, but there were years when we survived thanks to Top Ramen and whatever they gave us in the food bank box. Back then, my fitness was exercise videos and walks, and even access to those things involved a certain amount of privilege.
Diet culture at it’s core devalues black bodies, and it is deeply embedded in patriarchy. It we didn’t care what society (ie. white men) thought about our bodies, would we put so much pressure on ourselves to look a certain way? I’m willing to bet no. And how much more could we accomplish if we weren’t distracted by trying to shrink ourselves? It’s time to stop basing our value on the appearance of our bodies and our apparent “health” and start taking care of our bodies simply because they carry us through life. This is not to say that I don’t think that health matters, because it does. It’s simply to say that it’s important to recognize that health doesn’t have a look. And that the level of “health” that we’re able to achieve often has much more to do with societal issues than it does with a personal failing of some sort.
I recognize that as a white woman in a socially acceptable body, I don’t have much to contribute to this conversation. I’m speaking to my fellow white women to say that it’s time to stop being part of the problem. The Body Positivity movement is not for us. Improving body image is a very real thing, but we’re mostly beating ourselves up for having a body that is socially acceptable but not “perfect,” whatever that means.
What I can do as a fitness based business owner is to try to create a safe space for people to care for their bodies without shame or guilt. We’re going to get things wrong, but we will do our best to keep learning and evolving and holding space.
Want to learn more?
Seek out black voices, especially womxn and trans. Here are a few to get you started.
Where are you in your body image journey? I’d love to hear your thoughts.