Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How We Label Ourselves

Labels are interesting things. We look at them as a sort of compass, pointing the way to “true north.” They also mean different things to different people. And that’s what makes them interesting.

Being in the wellness business, it seems to us that for many people defining wellness is not an easy thing to do. We can define illness, or sickness, but is wellness just the opposite—or is it something more? What is this wellness “label?” We’d like to hear what you think.

Labels can be powerful. Most of us tend to accept labels as they’re applied. We—inadvertently or not—give the power to others to label us as normal weight, overweight, obese, or morbidly obese; as active, or sedentary. Don’t we already know? But then, here’s another question. Do we all have the same goals here? Do those doing the labeling have the same values as the labeled? And if we already know where we stand, why don’t we do something about it?

In reality, as adults, it seems we should be able to recognize when we (or our children) are carrying extra pounds, or spend our days sitting in front of a computer screen or television, never venturing out into the land of the physically active. After all, most of us know this is not a good thing. As adults, it is our job to decide how best to handle such situations. If someone points out that you “look great, that you appear to have lost weight” when you have not, you still have the extra pounds. But isn’t it up to you to decide what to do about those pounds? Or, do all of us who pay extra health care / insurance premiums for those costs associated with the chronic health conditions—and yes, the labels—of overweight, obesity and physical inactivity, have a say in what should be done with those extra pounds?

It seems to us the labels we apply to our situations—and what we decide to do about them—really should be our choice. But then we find ourselves addressing a new set of questions. Who pays for those choices? We all have options as to how we choose to respond to, or change, the situation. Yet, too often many of us passively accept both a label and a prescribed response rather than taking charge of both.

Don’t you have to wonder—if it’s in our power to make a change in our own self-interest and long-term health and wellness, if it’s in our power to find our way to the “true north” of wellness, why we don’t?

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