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Ayla Elledge

Professor Thomas
UWRT 1102
06 April 2016
Dying to live: is there a best way to be our best?
What is health? To some people being healthy simply means that they
are disease free. For others, healthy can take on a very complicated routine of
exercise and strictly regulated food intake. Someone else may consider
themselves healthy because they are very happy or successful. The World
Health Organizations definition of health very much sums up all of these
notions: A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not
merely the absence of disease or infirmary. This same definition has been used
by the WHO since its inception in 1948. There is much variability in the
human gene pool so it obviously must be left vague and open-ended, but what
exactly does it mean to be healthy in the world we live in? How has this
changed over time? And is good health generally the same for everyone?
These days, we truly dont know how lucky we are to be in an age of such
medical and health innovation. Up until the late 1800s it was common practice
to use bloodletting as a form of treatment for anything from acne to cancer, to
plague or stroke. For those unfamiliar, blood-letting is the act of removing blood

from the body via a medieval device (and more recently leeches) to get some of
the bad blood out and keep the 4 humors of the body in homeostasis.
Nowadays, this theory is considered wildly preposterous and is often referred to
as a pseudoscience.
By contrast, modern medicine is quite complex and difficult to
understand sometimes. On the curing diseases side of health, we have a
procedure or pill for almost any ailment, and you can bet that it will be
different than the treatment of a slightly different ailment. Our medical system
has gotten so specialized in a way that treatment may follow certain standard
guidelines but will often receive alteration. A good example of this is with
cancer treatment. When diagnosed, I received the ABVD chemotherapy only.
This was because the disease in my lymph nodes was localized mainly in my
lungs. For another person with the same disease, but more bulky or active
nodes (tumors), there may be added dosages of ABVD in conjunction with
radiation therapy to better cure them.
With that said, is it healthy to react to every physical ailment we
encounter? There are many current studies showing that as individuals, our
bodies are becoming very resistant to antibiotics because of the frequency we
are prescribed them. This resistance our bodies bacteria forms makes fighting
stronger or different types of infections very difficult and sometimes deadly. It

is a hard line to walk. Do I take medicine to get better or not? Should I wait it
out and try to let my body fix it or get aid from medicine.
Another very prominent concern is the social implications of a culture
obsessed with health and in our culture, thinness. Fitness and diet are seen as
the road posts to good health. You see it every time you turn on the T.V. or go
to the store. It may be a health magazine telling you how to lose 6 pounds in 6
days, a new drink supplement that will invigorate your mind, or a new super
food that is the BEST NEW thing to fight insert cancer or chronic disease. We
are obsessed with being healthy. We are obsessed with eating the right things
or doing the right moves to look better. The trouble with this is that much of
this market is uncontrolled, unregulated, or just new and untested. Going back
to the 1970s-1980s, we see a measurable difference in how nutrition was
seen. Some older guidelines show that eating food with fats and cholesterol is
bad for your health. While partly true, newer studies have shown that there are
two separate types of cholesterol (High-density lipids and Low-density lipids).
For better cardiovascular health, it is recommended that you decrease your
LDL cholesterol intake, but increase your HDL cholesterol intake. A
differentiation wasnt made in federal dietary guidelines until 2005. A similar
concept is being applied to the amount and types of fats that we eat. Simply
put, Saturated fats: bad, Trans fats: bad, Unsaturated fats: good. Using this

newer information (if widely accepted) would change the eating

patterns/content of a large demographic of people; and if one is not mindful of
their own bodies needs, they could potentially be putting themselves at risk for
many future health problems. With that said, this information would be helpful
to some, but dangerous for others.
Imagine this: you are fourteen years old. Your body is changing and
doing things you cant control. Youre feeling new feelings that youve never felt
before and youre in the uncharted territory of high school. With all of the
ambiguity of what you can or should be, how is a girl to know what is healthy
and what isnt? To get clarity, you go to the store to get some magazines that all
your friends read. Plastered on the front in a half-naked pop star who couldnt
be much older than you are that this point in time. Shes so thin that her ribs
stick out, but it looks good. Theyve edited the photos well even though you
dont know that they have. She looks energetic and alive. You then look at
yourself in the mirror and see the small but noticeable roll of belly fat that
hangs over your jeans. Its not a far cry from the looks of some of the other girls
at school, but compared to all of the girls of your age represented on TV and in
magazinesyou dont measure up. This magazine also has a large text block
reading Lose that Belly so they must obviously know that you arent as
skinny, healthy or happy as them. The advice they give you is to diet and

exercise, but you may be too young to know how much is too much or too little.
Youre also at a very impressionable age and dont have the foresight to see that
many people lose their baby fat and they grow into adulthood. Given the right
circumstances, its not rare for a situation like this to turn into destructive
behaviors and even deadly eating disorders.
Anne E. Becker has devoted a tremendous amount of time studying these
patterns of behavior in women of different cultures who have not been so
predisposed to our western media until recently. In her published work
Television, disordered eating and young women in Fiji: Negotiation body image
and identity during rapid social change, it is very discouraging to hear about
the effects our media have had on the adolescent women in Fiji. With the influx
of shows like Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place being shown, many of the
young girls had started to associate the success and happiness of the
characters with their thinness and fashion. Prior to this media exposure, eating
disorders were almost unheard of in Fiji. The studies done after the
introduction of western media show a correlational increase in disordered or
unhealthy patterns of eating. The article goes into much detail about how the
advertisement of exercise machines were very targeted towards younger women
and the idea of youth, thinness, femininity, and success. To be overweight
could then mean that you were just too lazy to care about your appearance. In

the end this really hurt many adolescents because of the lengths they would go
to to achieve the appearance of feminine health. Many expressed that they had
purged at least one meal in order to rid themselves of the calories (and fat)
consumed. All in all, being so controlled by the idea of healthiness can have
disastrous results.
Why is any of this important? Considering that as far as we know, we
each have only one life to live. The decisions we make daily can impact us for
years to come. If I were to read something misleading that told me mercury
could cure cancer and I went out and ingested some, theres a good chance my
life would be over that same day. In a less dramatic notion, when someone
develops diabetes from their poor diet and exercise, it has irritating daily effects
on their life. Routine blood sugar monitoring and a vigilant care of less sugar in
your diet can make daily life and uncomfortable struggle. Failure to adhere to
whats better for your body can lead to (in this case) diabetic sores and a
necessity for limb amputation. Its important to understand the implications of
know what health is and how it applies to yourself as an individual.
I could go on for days about the ways in which healthiness can be
debated, fixed, changed, described, or otherwise transformed, but I wont. Even
though he wasnt specifically talking about health, I think Charles Addams
summed it up the best. Whats normal for the spider is chaos for the fly. If

you feel very sick, go to the doctor. Its probably a good rule of thumb to eat a
fruits and vegetables every day and get the recommended amount protein and
calcium intake. Being highly sedentary will probably lead to heart disease or an
unhealthy amount of being in the house too much. But dont expect what
works for you to work for everyone exactly the same. Our gene-pool is rich with
diversity and that comes with the consequence of needing different approaches.
Do your research and be informed, not just about current health trends, but
about your body and the way it reacts to the things around you. Self-awareness
is key to anyones individual health, as long as it is asserted moderately. Most
importantly, love yourself the way you would want someone else to love you and
treat yourself accordingly.