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What Does Health and Wellness Really Mean?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

TRIGGER WARNING- This article discusses topics related to eating disorders and eating habits. If you have issues involving these topics please seek help.

Here is a 24/7 hotline for people seeking help with eating disorders.

We live in a time where wherever you look, someone or something is telling you to be a certain way. Especially for women, the media makes us feel less than we are so we can buy something to change that. Eat this, don’t eat that. You should be strong and muscular but also toned and skinny. But don’t be too skinny because then you aren’t healthy. You should also have enough fat on your body where you have a butt and boobs but not too much or then you’re obese and that’s not healthy. Everywhere you look something is telling you to do something different. It is completely impossible to get it perfect. So what if we destroy all the noise? What if we stop wondering what we should eat or how we should work out? What if we stop asking these impossible questions and ask what health and wellness means to you as a single human being?

From as early as I can remember, people have always told me to be a different version of myself. At nine I was told to train harder if I wanted to be an Olympic gymnast. Having muscles was beautiful. At 12 I entered the scary world of middle school and suddenly my strong thighs were not skinny enough for the popular girls. Suddenly my shorts were traded in for jeans because I was self-conscious of having bigger legs than everyone.  At 15 I quit gymnastics to be a normal teenager and suddenly I lost all my muscle. I started to get boobs because I wasn’t training 18 hours a week. I finally started to get looked at by boys and suddenly that was all that mattered to me. Suddenly I found fulfillment in a boyfriend rather than myself. At 17 I was completely convinced I would never be skinny or pretty enough because society ingrained in my head that any problem a woman has can be solved by a man and to be loved by a man you have to be as skinny and as pretty as possible. Society taught me that the reason I felt empty was because I wasn’t pretty enough and therefore no one could love me. Little did I know that to really be loved, you had to find love within yourself. Now at 19, I have found love within myself by ignoring the wants of society and of men, but like the majority of the population, I’m still asking, what is health?

When defining health, what do we mean? Do we mean physically? Even then what does that mean? Does that mean how skinny you are? How strong you are? How far or fast can you run? Do we mean mentally healthy? Like how happy you are? How well you treat your loved ones?  What do we mean? 

In this fight to find what health and wellness meant for me, I decided to  define what the word health meant for me. For so long health meant how I physically looked. It didn’t matter if I was facing demons, if I looked good, then I was healthy. It didn’t mean if I had COVID-19 and couldn’t get out of bed for days, if I looked good, I was healthy. Health meant eating a salad because I thought that’s what would make me look the best. Health meant going to the gym to train my legs because I wanted to change the way mine looked. 

That was what health meant until I healed what was going on inside. How I needed to heal this obsession to be accepted by people before I could start accepting myself. I started learning that health could mean I could be happy. How it could mean feeling like a million bucks rather than feeling unnourished and fatigued. How it meant eating a salad so I could get nutrients. How I hit legs now so they can be strong enough to carry me through this life.  Instead of looking at health as a quick fix– as something to only worry about when you feel off balance in other parts of your life–I started to look at health as a lifestyle. How if I constantly do some of these habits and work towards these goals, I can live a joyful life. 

I am healthy so I can ski with my grandkids, watch my kids grow up,  see my friends get married, to hike Mount Kilimanjaro. I learned that it was important for me to grow old, therefore I need to take care of my body in a way that can carry me through life. Not only that, but also to create a healthy place in wellness so I can have somewhere to turn to when I feel wobbly. I can go run and bike now when I want to feel free and strong instead of when I hate myself. I can eat veggies now because I want to live a long life rather than looking good for that irrelevant boy at that party. I found what was important to me and applied that to health. 

So when looking at health, you have to ask, what does health and wellness mean to you? What do you truly want from eating healthy? What do you get out of going to the gym? You then have to ask if that is a good enough reason to devote all this time to something. You have to mute all the magazines and websites, all the influencers and actors telling you something different because you’re you. There is no one on this earth with your genetic makeup. Therefore health and wellness will not be the same to you as it is to them. Find what brings you joy. Find what works for you, because the only thing that is limited in this life is time. So spend your time doing what brings you joy. 

Hi, my name is Rowan Ellis-Rissler and I am a journalist for HER campus at CU Boulder. I was born and raised in boulder and have always had a sincere love for Journalism and connecting with people and places around the world. My free time consists of mountain biking for the CU cycling team and also skiing for the freeride team at CU. I enjoy anything outdoors and I spend a significant amount of time working on photography. My dream is to be either photojournalist or a broadcast journalist. Here at CU I am majoring in journalism and political science with a minor in business management. I write to make people feel something. I report because I want to spend my life doing what I love while also helping at least one person feel less alone in this world.