Preparing for fertility: What is a “healthy body”?

Take a minute to ask yourself this question: What is a healthy body to you?

Some people’s answer might be simply without any physical illness, or to have a body like the cover girl or Instagram influencer. Some might just like to be stress and depression free. The World Health Organization’s answer is this:

“A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

From a fertility point of view, we look at a more complex definition involving our physical, mental and emotional well-being. If we are in great physical shape but are struggling to deal with stress or emotional factors, it can have a negative impact on our fertility performance. Therefore, to achieve optimal reproductive health, we need to engage in methods to improve all of the above. 

Over the past 30 years popular culture has changed our society’s expectation of what a healthy body looks like. Extremely low body fat and sculpted muscular bodies are portrayed as ‘perfection’ by social media and the fitness industry, or incredibly thin bodies by the fashion industry. This distortion of reality has affected our mental and physical health. Many people who look healthy to us on the surface through this lens are actually sustaining themselves on poor quality diets, avoiding exercise or on contrary, over-exercising to achieve a particular body image. I have met many people who have had an eating disorder without being aware of it. 

So what should we consider when it comes to having a healthy body?

First, it is very important to know that each of us has a unique body shape and structure. Some people have naturally thin, lightly built bodies, while others naturally have bigger and stronger structures. 

Secondly, body fat is not a bad thing. To achieve a balanced and healthy body, we don’t want to have a very low or high body fat ratio. We need to work towards the optimum weight based on our own natural shape, and that can mean some people need to gain some weight and some will benefit from losing some. We want to have a strong, relaxed body which moves freely and a mind which is quiet and can process the stress we may be under. 

With that, we are closer to being ready for the next big challenge – your baby.