Working in the health industry, I have talked with hundreds of people about achieving optimal and true health. The reality of the fitness industry is this though: What looks "healthy" or appealing to the eye, isn't always the result of true health. I work at a gym that has some of the most professional, qualified, and advocators of what health is really supposed to be, and for that I am truly blessed, but not all gyms are created equal. There is a massive movement in the figure/bodybuilding world where people diet and train hard to get down to an obscenely low body fat percentage to go pose on a stage, in a bikini or speedo, to be judged on their appearance. The end result for the majority of these people can go one of two ways.
1) They don't place and end up feeling extra inadequate about how they look, which results in an increase in Body Dismorphic Disorder (BDD), eating disorders, rebound weight gain, and/or depression, if they don't already suffer from one of those things already.
2) They place, maybe get their Pro card, and go on to do more shows where they often come to an end, sooner than later (for most), which usually ends up resulting in BDD, an eating disorder, rebound weight gain, and/or depression.
It seems like the fate of these competitors is pretty much the same whether they place or not. Realistically, not too many people go on to be famous fitness models or top winners in world wide federations, and if you are and you're reading this, good job but can I ask you "what do you see when you look in the mirror"? Most Pro card winners don't see the lean, mean fighting machines that they truly are. Most of them see someone lean, but even more so they see all room for improvement they have or the slight imperfections here and there.
I know this mentality all too well, not because I did shows, but because of the results from going through a drug addiction matched by an eating disorder. I didn't see myself for what I truly was, all I saw was imperfections and all I saw was fat, when I was basically a walking skeleton. At 6'1, I was 50lbs lighter than the picture of me to the right. I worked out every morning and every afternoon, and presented myself as a "healthy" individual. But what people didn't know when they saw me was how much damage I was doing internally, both mentally and physically, with drugs and with purging/starving myself.
When you see body builders or figure competitors, don't underestimate the means they have used to get to the place they're at. I'm not saying what they do isn't hard work, believe me, I know the time and dedication that goes into preparing for a show, but that's also my point. To get to a body fat percentage as low as 10% for a female means that more often than not, reproductive functioning ceases, hormones are altered, and metabolic damage occurs, that's factual. Not only does it take a round out of you physically, but mentally you have to be prepared to give up your life for 3, 6, 9 months, or however long you're doing shows or preparing.
This type of lifestyle consumes you and it's a very extreme approach. Extremism in anything indicates an imbalance. When I think of what true health looks like, I think of someone who is vibrant and full of life, who has a lean body composition but not to the point where it's doing metabolic or hormonal damage. I see someone who doesn't take life so seriously, who can laugh, go out with friends, who has energy to play with their kids, who devotes time to others and not to obsessing about food or what they cannot eat, and who has aspirations in life that don't revolve around vanity. There's nothing wrong with wanting to look good, or presenting yourself nicely, and taking care of yourself physically is essential, but if looking a certain way consumes your life and your mind everyday, this is not a sign of true health. This is perfectionism and disordered habitual patterns masquerading as health.