September is Great North Run month – the time of year when up to 60 000 people head to Newcastle upon Tyne to run the iconic 13.1-mile route from Newcastle to South Shields.
As we line up with everybody at the start I look around in awe and wonder at my fellow runners. Runners come in an infinite number of sizes and shapes, and everyone is united in one goal – getting to the finish line.
On my mind this year were the many conversations I have – particularly with people who have a difficult relationship with food, weight and shape – around the idea of health. What is health? Where does health dwell? How do we measure health?
These are not questions that have one answer, or that I can answer in a blog, however they are questions we can all get curious about.
What is your definition of health? Is that the definition of health or a definition of health? Where did you learn this from?
I recall from a very early age learning that my health was all about my weight. I was encouraged by the school nurse when I lost weight and frowned upon if I gained weight. That’s not to blame the nurse – she was likely following a prescribed or learned definition of health herself. We all pick up and inherit beliefs from the world around us, often believing that those beliefs are the truth. I innocently believed that being healthy meant I had to be a certain size and shape and follow a particular set of advice about diet.
On Sunday as I ran the race I was surrounded by thousands of incredible people; some running for a challenge, some running to raise money, some running to win, or achieve their fastest time. Some, including myself, will have doubted their ability to finish at times, or their decision to enter in the first place! Some will have felt confident and strong. We all had a unique story, and we all had a unique body.
Some of the bodies on the course that day did not appear to fit the classic medical idea of what health is. Some were lean, some less so, some were tall, some shorter, some athletic-looking and some not so classically athletic; and still, each and every body was a body that was covering a considerable distance to complete a common race with a unique experience. And complete it we did!
I don’t know whether those people crossing the finishing line felt healthy, believed they had health or trusted their bodies, but what I see more and more is that our health doesn’t necessarily dwell in our body. It dwells in the relationship we have with our body. If our relationship with our body is healthy, we are so much more likely to have a different, more united experience. We can listen and respond to what our body wants and needs – we experience tiredness and rest; we feel hunger and eat, or fullness and stop. We love and trust our body enough to work as a deeply connected team with one goal – to be as loving and collaborative as we can.
And of course, even in the healthiest of relationships, we sometimes argue, disagree and stop listening. However, the love within the relationship means we come together, work it out and continue on our path with love and unity.
I hope we all become more curious about health, what it is, where is lies and how we nurture it.
With September love. Sarah