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2012 Spring Issue 6 (May 11, 2012)

On Being Overly “Healthy”

May 11, 2012
By Zoe Suche

In December, home for winter break, I had a strange and worrying gym experience. I was running on the treadmill at a reasonable pace. It was one of those really excellent pieces of equipment with its own individual TV, so you can watch the food network in peace without the risk of someone changing it to the golf channel. As far as I can tell, what happened was some kind of electrical malfunction that caused the belt to suddenly stop moving; I stumbled forward into the front piece of the machine and probably would have fallen if I hadn’t been able to grab the two railings.

The worrying part wasn’t the sudden stop; it was the thirty seconds immediately after, where black seeped into my vision from all sides, and the part of the room that I could still see began to spin dramatically. Thank goodness for those railings, again; without them, I would have lost my balance and fallen. Even with them, I remember seeing the gym attendant peering suspiciously at me as I reeled around in place. It wasn’t the first time I’d had an experience like this, but it was the most severe.

After that, I wasn’t in the mood to complete my workout; I went home and looked at WebMD, which concluded, per usual, that I could have anything from a minor cold to incurable cancer. I saw my GP as soon as I could; based on my symptoms, she referred me to an emergency heart-health clinic to see a cardiologist.

The story ends rather anti-climactically. I have an extremely—borderline problematically—low blood pressure, but no heart problems; the primary cause of my blood pressure, dizziness and near-blackouts was a major sodium deficiency. That’s right; not enough salt in my diet. Pretty much everyone in the world has the reverse problem. What can I say? I’ll take a sweet snack over a salty one any day. I don’t salt my food; it’s just not a habit. Somewhere in the process of going to college and beginning to feed myself, I managed to deprive my body of one of the easiest-to-get nutrients out there.

The reason for this anecdote is that I think that, to the detriment of a number of people, food considered “healthy” is not always geared toward healthy people; that is, people who aren’t trying to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, or trying to lose weight. For a while I’d been eating foods that proudly displayed that they “promote heart health!” or “improve cholesterol!” Unfortunately, decreasing the quantity of salt was, for me, having the opposite effect.

Everything in moderation. We need to be more careful with food labeled healthy; healthy for whom? When it comes to things we need, just not in extremely high quantities, there is no objective standard for what is healthy. Salt is not healthy if you are consuming too much; however, that doesn’t make it healthy in turn to consume too little. The same goes for fats and carbs, two food groups often subjected to the same treatment as sodium. We should care for our bodies individually; it will serve us far better than adhering to the debatable standards listed on our cereal boxes.

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