A young man with HIV smiling shown with colorful fruits and vegetables surrounding him

Redefining "Healthy"

Upon being diagnosed, we are often told to look at our habits and build healthy ones, letting go of our unhealthier ones.

But how, exactly, does one do this? One option is to look at the dictionary definition of "healthy", which is commonly aligned with something like, "corresponding to good health." Well, that's not a very helpful definition, because just what is "good health"?

How are our values connected to health?

Good implies a value, and everyone's values are different. So perhaps one way of going about this is to start with what one values about living, their bodies, and how the two are related.

Values, traits that guide behavior, can help us in our decision-making.  So, if we value physique, that can be a framework. If we value energy, that can be a framework. If we value a strong immune system, that can be a framework. These can also intersect.

Knowing what we value helps us figure out how to get ourselves to our health-related goals by choosing courses of action.

How my values drove my health habits

I value longevity of life and energy while living, and these imply having a strong immune system. At first, energy was my main value and guided my path toward increasing coffee intake and drinking those energy drink (B-Vitamin at 3000% daily value) shots. This let me stay on top of work and feel energized.

However, it came at a cost: I was losing weight and felt exhausted by the end of the day. I tried to work out, but I was tight and sore or too worn out by the end of a day of work to exercise much.  This countered my values of longevity, physique, and overall immune health.

Adjusting my food and health habits

Cutting out coffee to aid digestion

So, I dabbled and weighed options. Coffee (caffeine in general) was reduced as I started exercising more, and I found that coffee, while delicious, was also part of why I had been having ongoing digestive issues. Cutting out the coffee, then, allowed me to better digest my food, which in turn, let me gain the energy the food provided.

Increasing bodyweight to prevent wasting

Exercising and eating more, I put on ideal levels of bodyweight that could help prevent wasting. I also noticed that when I drank less coffee and drank water instead, I had fewer body aches and muscle tension, which I had been blaming solely on the meds.

Diversifying my food intake

I played with foods and found that basing health on calories wasn't helpful. I needed way more than 2,000 calories per day and, initially, this meant a lot of convenient junk foods. They were cheap and easy. But they weren't helpful, I found, at helping me meet my goals of fitness and longevity.

I started to play more with colors than calories, ensuring I got all food groups, but also that there were purples, reds, and greens present. I found quickly that berries and vegetables were helpful, giving me energy and boosting my immune system.

I still play around, still try new things. Values, I have found, are different than goals because they are lived, not achieved. If one values their health, one continues learning about health and about one's own body. No one could define "healthy" for me, but defining it for myself helped.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy. We never sell or share your email address.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The H-I-V.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.