We’ve talked before about how there are some words that will make me a very, very angry buffalo. And a quick Google search will bring you lots of links to discussions of other words–like “natural”–that are pretty much meaningless nowadays (thanks, advertisers!), so using them is less about understanding what they mean and more about getting people to buy into whatever you’re selling.
And today I have hit my breaking point, and need to add another word to the List of Words Which Have Become Meaningless Yet Simultaneously Infuriating: “healthy“.
I have seen that word approximately eleventy-four billion times on Pinterest and Facebook today, and I. Am. Over. It. Not because I think it’s a wildly unacceptable word, like using “retarded” as slang (seriously, I will punch you in the neck for that), but because it’s become a fad word whose rampant overuse, misuse, and abuse has led to some truly bizarre–and in some cases deeply unsettling–things.
“Healthy”, as far as I can tell, used to mean “all my parts are functioning in a useful and mostly reliable way”. It meant that your body did what you needed it to do when you needed it to do it, and that you could generally assume that it would do so without catastrophic system failure at an inopportune time. If you needed to outrun the devil, you could probably do so without your heart exploding. You were pretty unlikely to be walking down the street and suddenly have your spleen rupture. Your temperature was neither too high nor too low, all your organs were where they were supposed to be and functioning like they were supposed to function, and you could climb to higher ground faster than the rising floodwaters or carry your groceries inside by yourself. You could walk to someplace reasonably close. You could sit comfortably.
But now it’s got this whole insane twisting thing going, where “healthy” apparently means “I want to talk about things that are actually pretty unhealthy, but I want to sound hip and with-it”. “Healthy” is the new “skinny”, and “healthy” is the new “natural”. And “healthy” has become utterly, utterly meaningless.
Let me give you some examples.
First, please consider the “Healthy” Peanut Butter Cookie craze, which has been making the rounds on Pinterest for a little while. Per the description–which tends to get passed along with the pin, so I see this with some regularity–these have “Only 36 calories per cookie! Ingredients: 1 Cup Peanut butter 1 Cup Sugar 1 TSP baking soda 1 egg Mix the peanut butter and sugar first then add in the egg and baking soda. Bake for 10 minutes on 350 degrees.”
Read that description aloud real quick and see if anything jumps out to you. I’ll wait.
…Did you spot it? The part where there are equal parts peanut butter and sugar in these things? And you know most people who are unfazed by that fact are probably not grinding their own sugar-free peanut butter, so there’s even more sugar coming from their store-bought stuff.
Now, look. I’m not a nutritionist, but I’m really gonna need someone to explain to me how a cookie that is roughly 48% sugar gets to call itself “healthy”. Basically what you’re doing here is taking a glob of sugary peanut butter, wrapping it in even more sugar, and calling it a day.
‘Cause, y’know, that makes sense.
And then at the other end of the spectrum, we have this little gem, which…well, take a gander:
This is one that is not even pretending that by “healthy” it means anything other than “skinny”. It also got picked up by Pinterest, and is making the rounds as the “Healthy Skinny Girl Diet“, with comments like “this is a diet called the healthy skinny girl diet. it is 21 days and it takes 21 days to create a habit so good diet choice”.
But here’s the thing. I actually found this image first doing a Google search for “diet to be healthy” (sometimes research for these ‘Tracts makes me search for things I wouldn’t ordinarily), and the image was in my results.
Do you want to know where it came from?
It came from here: Skinny Girls: A Pro Ana Community. The article is titled “Learn to Hate Food”.
OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD
/runs around in little circles
You can’t see it from there, ’cause you’re reading this on a screen of some sort, but I am literally, physically shaking with rage here. There is nothing–nothing–you can say that will ever make me believe that anyone should ever, under any circumstances, ever ever ever in life take advice, especially diet advice, from a [zomg such a rude word] PRO-ANOREXIA WEBSITE.
Ok, that’s not entirely accurate–at the top of that site is a little disclaimer, and I can agree with the first half of it: “WARNING: Anorexia is a harmful disease that could lead to death. Please research the dangerous effects of anorexia and other diseases before reading this blog.”
So could we please, please please please, please as a personal favor to me, agree that perhaps this whole “healthy” thing has gotten a tiny bit out of hand? Can we agree that we need a definition reset? Can we agree that a word that represents an ideal that people are striving toward, once it has reached the point where it is simultaneously describing cookies that are 50% sugar and a seriously dangerous eating disorder (overeating and undereating? BOTH UNHEALTHY, GANG.), has perhaps become just the teensiest bit jumbled beyond all sanity or reason?
Maybe we go back to a different way of looking at things. Maybe we reconsider the “does my body perform the way I need/want it to?” measurement approach, and drop the compulsive calorie counting and BMI measuring and scales and charts and graphs and tables. Maybe we take a second to consider that opting out of the MUST BE HEALTHY madness is actually a pretty healthy step in and of itself, since a goal which represents such extremes and such all-consuming obsession is…y’know…maybe not so hot after all.
I for one am going to go take a walk, because I want my body to be able to get to places on foot in case my car breaks down in the middle of someplace where I have no cell phone reception.
And because I need to clear my head.
“Learn to hate food”, indeed.