Bob Harper’s Heart Attack and 3 Flaws in Our Logic About Health

Let’s talk about Bob Harper, celebrity fitness trainer and host of NBC’s weight-loss reality television show “The Biggest Loser.” He recently suffered from a heart attack. Are you asking yourself, “How could someone so healthy have a heart attack?” Well, let me stop you right there. How do we know Bob is healthy?

Because he looks healthy?

Because he’s a vegetarian?

Because he’s an authority on health & fitness and seems to really know his stuff?

Because he trains celebrities and helps people lose weight on “The Biggest Loser?”

What else do we know about him? For most of us, the answer is, “Not much.” The truth is that we simply cannot assume that Bob (or anyone else for that matter) is healthy based on these factors alone. This all-too-common logic is fundamentally flawed, revealing a perfect opportunity to teach three important lessons about health. 

  1. You cannot see health. Health is not a size, shape or a particular weight or body composition.
  2. Health is not as simple as following a particular diet, exercising a certain number of minutes per day, or consuming a particular number of calories or distribution of macronutrients.
  3. You’re not healthy because you have expertise in the realm of health & wellness, regardless of whether or not this often self-assigned label has been earned.

So what is health? According to the World Health Organization, “health is a state of complete physical, mental & social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Leading health experts believe that a healthy lifestyle is actually determined by a combination of variables such as genetics, sleep, self-care & stress levels, social support, regular movement, and a balanced, flexible approach to nutrition that honors the body’s hunger & fullness signals.

Without knowing Bob personally or his medical history, we really can’t say with any real confidence that he’s a healthy guy. But that doesn’t stop us from assuming he is based a few factors that are not truly variables associated with health and following his lead when it comes to our own health choices and judgments about others’.

The lesson here? As a society, our definition of health and our logic used to determine whether or not someone is healthy, to evaluate our own health, and to dictate our own health choices is completely flawed. This often leads us down a fruitless road to chasing health in the form of variables not truly linked to a healthy lifestyle.

by Jessica Betts, MS, RD, LD
Program Director
REbeL, Inc.