We live in a world where good healthis usually equated with a certain kind of appearance. "Health"magazines publish cover lines about flat stomachs and getting lean.Yes, some healthy people have flat abs and thigh gaps and thinbodies. But that doesn't mean these qualities are necessary forgood health.
In fact, the official definition ofhealth — at least, the one used by the World Health Organization(WHO) — says nothing about the way you look. WHO says health is "astate of complete physical, mental and social well-being and notmerely the absence of disease or infirmity."
How can you tell if you fit thatdefinition? There are some general signs that indicate good healthfor most people. Here are some to look out for.
1. You eat when you're hungryand stop when you're full.
This simple behavior is a hallmark ofhealthy eating.
"It sounds really silly, but it'samazing how many of us don't do that," Dr. Cindy Geyer, medicaldirector at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts, told INSIDER. "Weforget to eat so we're starving and then we eat a ton, or we'reeating mindlessly in front of the TV, or we're eating in anemotional context because it's how we're self-soothing."
Dietitian Rachael Hartley alsostressed the importance of listening to your body in thisregard.
"A healthy relationship with food istrusting your internal cues, not external ones, to decide what andhow much to eat," she said. "I encourage clients to eat untilyou're satisfied, but not stuffed."
2. You're eating a varieddiet rich in whole foods.
"A lot of diets exclude certainfoods, [but] when I look at clients' eating patterns I look for awide array of foods," Hartley said.
A diverse diet ensures that you'remore likely to get all the vitamins and nutrients you need, sheexplained. This is even more true if that diet that's rich inwhole, unprocessed foods, which tend to be more nutrient-dense thanprocessed stuff.
3. You're eatingenough.
"In our culture, sometimes peoplethink of healthy eating as, 'how can you eat as few calories aspossible and survive?'" Hartley said. "But in reality, I want tomake sure people are eating enough." Everyone has different calorieneeds that vary based on age, sex, and activity level. You canestimate yours with a simple online calculator.
Remember, calories aren't your enemyor some evil force to be reduced at all costs. They're an energysource that helps you live your life and do what you love. And ifyou're not eating enough of them, you could end up feeling moody,weak, achy, and more.
4. You can make it up twoflights of stairs and feel pretty good.
If you want to become a rippedbodybuilder or ultra marathon runner, more power to you. But it'sOK if you don't aspire to those goals. You don't have to be anextreme athlete to be healthy.
The recommended amount of exercisefor good health is 150 weekly minutes of moderate activity, likebrisk walking.
Geyer said there's another benchmarkthat doctors use to determine physical fitness.
"If you can go fairly quickly up twoflights of stairs without stopping and feel good at the top, that'sa moderate level of exertion," Geyer said. "While not perfect, theability to climb two flights of stairs easily suggests that yourbody can perform high intensity activity, one marker offitness."
5. You embrace your fullrange of emotions.
Emotional health is just important asphysical health, and Geyer has a simple way of gauging it.
"I think emotional wellbeing isembracing the whole gamut of emotions and understanding thatthey're all normal," Geyer said. "It's normal at some times to feelangry, it's normal to feel upset, it's normal to feel anxious anddepressed. And a good sign of emotional wellbeing is embracing allof those emotions and recognizing that no one of them is going tobe permanent."
It's a lot like the message in thePixar movie "Inside Out" — happiness wouldn't mean as much if youdidn't feel sad now and again.
Same goes for dealing withstress.
"It's not about not havingstressors," Geyer said. "It's [about] recognizing when the stressis there and finding strategies to manage it and deal with it andmove on." Stress really is manageable — there are a number ofdoctor-approved ways to deal with it.
6. You can wake up without analarm clock.
It should come as no surprise thatselling yourself short on sleep is terrible for your body andbrain. Research has linked insufficient sleep to increased risk ofAlzheimer's, obesity, stroke, and diabetes. That's why it'simportant to shoot for eight hours a night.
"If you regularly wake up in themorning without an alarm and you feel rested and refreshed, that'sa pretty good gauge that you're getting quality sleep," Geyersaid.
7. You're not falling asleeptoo quickly.
Falling asleep in an average amountof time — roughly 10 to 20 minutes — is a sign that your sleep ispretty good, Geyer explained. But if you're too quick to conk out,you're likely not getting enough sleep.
"If somebody's falling asleep muchmore quickly than [average] — like their head hits the pillow andthey're out — that can be a clue that they have a sleep debt."
Also watch out for sleeping whiletraveling.
"If you get in the passenger's sideof the car or you get in an airplane and you fall asleep regardlessof the time of day, that's a very strong indicator that you have asleep debt," Geyer added.
8. You have the energy to dothe things you want to do.
Geyer said that there was one wordthat kept coming to her mind when she thought of good health:energy.
"It's so non-specific, but having theenergy to do the things you want to do is usually a very good signof good health," she said. "And that energy can be physical energyand emotional energy."
No matter what, remember that healthis individualized. If you're worried you're not healthy — or you'rejust curious about where you stand — make sure to see yourdoctor.