How to know if you have an unhealthy approach to health

An unhealthy approach to health…

Have you ever considered that your desire to be healthy might be unhealthy?

In my work, I see plenty of examples of an unhealthy approach to health.

So in this post, I look at how the desire to be healthy can become unhealthy. Specifically, I share:

  • Examples of what an unhealthy approach to health looks like
  • What it means to take care of yourself in a healthy way
  • How you can look after yourself in a kinder, more compassionate way.

Listen or read below:

When healthy becomes unhealthy

When does wanting to be healthy become unhealthy?

Now you might be thinking, how can wanting to be healthy be unhealthy?!

Well, there is nothing wrong with wanting to have better physical and/or mental health. 

But wanting better health can come from an unhealthy place.  This happens when you believe your health is an indicator of your worth.  Efforts to improve your health come from a place of inadequacy, resulting in unhealthy behaviours.

I see this happening a lot with clients.  When we start work, they often tell me all the things they are doing to take care of their health. 

On the surface, these things might seem healthy, like taking care over what they eat and exercising.  But, when I dig deeper, I discover their behaviours are far from healthy.  They often eat in a restrictive way that denies their hunger and exercise through tiredness and injury.

An unhealthy approach to health is damaging not only physically, but it will have a detrimental impact on your body image, because it’s impossible to have a healthy perception of your body when you’re depriving and punishing it.

So how do you know if you’re approaching health in an unhealthy way? Let’s explore the difference between a healthy versus and an unhealthy approach.

An unhealthy approach to health

Healthy becomes unhealthy when you’re motivated by a sense of inadequacy – when the focus on health is rooted in the belief that you’re not good enough; and you must prove your worth by becoming healthier.

Typically, clients in this position:

  • Believe that their weight is the most important indicator of health.
  • Spend a large proportion of their time and energy exercising and controlling what they eat.
  • Work out because they hate their body and want to be thinner.
  • Deny themselves foods they enjoy.
  • Feel guilty for having hunger and needing to eat.
  • Prioritise changing their body to the exclusion of anything else.
  • Ignore their mental health in favour of ‘working on’ their body.

But engaging in these behaviours will never help you to feel good about yourself or your body.  Instead, they are a recipe for obsessive thinking, anxiety, and low energy and mood.

A healthy approach to health

In contrast, the desire to be healthy is healthy when it comes from a place of care, compassion, and kindness.

Typically, caring for yourself in a healthy way means:

  • Knowing that health is a complex concept – it looks different for each individual and there are many different factors that affect it, many of which aren’t within your control.
  • Appreciating mental health is as important as your physical health and taking steps to care for it.
  • Moving your body because it feels good, not just to burn a set number of calories or to earn your dinner.
  • Eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full (but knowing that overeating sometimes isn’t the end of the world).
  • Eating foods that you enjoy without the guilt, and not labelling foods as good or bad.
  • Understanding that a healthy lifestyle is about balance and building in practices that work with your life (rather than to the exclusion of it!).

When you approach health from a healthy place, you have greater appreciation and respect for your body, and you know that you are worthy regardless of your health or anything else.

A kinder approach to health

So, when you reflect on your approach to health, where are you at?  Are you engaging in healthy or unhealthy self-care or are you somewhere in between?

If you’ve realised that you are taking an unhealthy approach to health, there are a couple things you can do to help you be kinder and more compassionate to yourself.

First, notice when your behaviours are unhealthy.  One of the biggest clues is that you are going against your body – ignoring hunger, tiredness, or pain.  Don’t beat yourself up about it, simply tune into your body’s signals.

Then, with this greater awareness of your body’s signals, ask yourself daily, what’s the kindness thing I can do for myself and my body today? This will get you focused on taking care of your needs from a place of kindness and compassion.

I’d love to hear your reflections on a healthy versus an unhealthy approach to health. Please leave me a comment below.

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