By: Lexie Manion
When we talk about “health” in terms of our bodies, many people tend to only focus on the physical aspect. If we are going to talk about myself, a fat person who at one point in time was over-eating and was not very physically active, we absolutely need to talk about the mental health aspect. I was over-eating due to my eating disorder struggles and I wasn’t exercising due to my clinical depression (both of which made me feel very ashamed and unmotivated and led to frequent self isolation).
Health is complex, multifaceted, and very individual. So, today, I am joining Project HEAL in their #MyHEALthyBodyCan campaign. I would like to challenge the wording of the campaign a bit. The #MyHEALthyBodyCan campaign can unintentionally leave out unhealthy bodies that simply “cannot” do the same things as “healthy” bodies can. So, I’m here to share both sides of my story today. I encourage you to do the same.
Today, #MyHEALthyBodyCan stand for 6+ hours every day, lift and move heavy things, go for a walk without having to sit down
and take breaks, climb a staircase without feeling so out of breath and in general, move more without being in pain. These examples I list have been great personal achievements because I was wrapped up in self doubt when I was struggling with depression in the past; I didn’t think I would ever be able to be this physically active. My unhealthy body can fight and survive. As a teenager, when I was unhealthy mentally, emotionally and physically, I was still resilient and I pushed through many obstacles. I want to thank my unhealthy body because it was still capable of great things. Even when I was “unhealthy”, I was a good friend. Even when I was “unhealthy”, I was compassionate. Even when I was “unhealthy”, I participated in Operation Beautiful, a movement founded by Caitlin Boyle, that spread a message to youth that they are worthy via posting post-it notes with inspirational words in public. Even in my worst days of “unhealthiness”, I spent several weekends of my sophomore and junior years of high school spreading encouraging and inspiring messages to my fellow classmates and the faculty. I wasn’t well, but my loving and bright personality still shined through. I did great things even when I was “unhealthy.” Today, #MyHEALthyBodyCan face difficult, emotionally draining situations head on and cope healthily with them. My mental and emotional health is very stable right now, so even when stressors arise, I don’t relapse or take things out on myself anymore.
My unhealthy body can also face difficult, emotionally draining situations. I may not have been equipped with effective skills as a
teenager to deal with problems as healthily as I can today, but I still managed. I did the best with what I had, and to me, that is
what matters most. I still overcame difficult obstacles when I was “unhealthy”. The point of myself distinguishing #MyHEALthyBodyCan from “my unhealthy body can” is because unhealthy and healthy bodies “can” accomplish great things. I wanted to provide examples from my personal experiences to show both sides. The additional phrase is inspired out of my desire to validate people with mental illness, physical illness, chronic illnesses, disabilities and other conditions.
Our health is our own and we never have to prove anything to anyone. Whether you’re healthy or unhealthy, you are worthy.
#MyHEALthyBodyCan be worthy and my unhealthy body can be worthy. I was worthy then and I am worthy now. We are worthy
whether or not we are healthy.