I feel like most people start out on their “health” journey because they want to lose weight. I know that’s what first propelled me into the world of health and fitness.
To give you some background (and get a bit personal) I look back on photos of myself when I was younger and I was never overweight. This isn’t me bragging about myself, this is me saying how hard it is when you are living with a type of “body dysmorphia” like I was when I was younger. I constantly compared myself to other friends, celebrities, models in magazines, etc. and was convinced that I needed to lose weight. I can also be pretty hard on myself, and I decided I needed to fix my “problem areas” that probably never existed.
So began years of excessive exercise and low fat dieting. And so started the food obsession and the so-called “health” obsession. I lost weight pretty rapidly and I always promoted myself as having done so by eating “healthfully” and exercising. Little did others know that this “healthy eating” was coupled with obsessive food thoughts and going to bed some nights positively starving.
This really all comes down to the fact that you can’t judge someone’s health based on their weight. Just because someone is sporting a few extra pounds does not mean they are unhealthy. And just because someone is fitting into a 00 pair of jeans does not mean they are healthy.
We are a society infatuated by numbers. The “1400 calorie diet plan”, “how to lose 10 pounds in 10 days”, etc. These plans are always touted as “healthy” living and eating. Unfortunately, that is not usually the case. Not only do most of these plans majorly skimp on nutrients (especially healthy fats!) but they all promote the thought process that losing weight = being healthy. This is not a 1 to 1 relationship. There are some people that don’t need to lose weight. And on the other side, there are other people that may need to lose weight, but this approach of “just eat less” is not only a sure fire way to have disordered thoughts about eating, it is completely unsustainable and usually results in weight gain in the long run.
I want to empower individuals to focus on health, not a number on a scale. By focusing on health, you pay attention to your body (instead of ignoring it!) and you become excited about the idea that you are providing nourishment and care to your body. With this way of thinking, you are working with your body, and it shouldn’t be a struggle. Staying at a particular weight shouldn’t be so hard. And, if it is, you may have to be honest with yourself. Are you fighting those last 10 pounds because that’s what society is promoting, even though your body just comfortably wants to keep some extra curves? Or, do you need to spend some time figuring out with yourself maybe why you are over (or under) eating. What else is going on that is contributing to this stress?
I am not perfect at this. There are some days where I have not paid attention to what I am eating or I do not take the best care of myself mentally. There are also days where I pick at my body and start to wonder if I should do more to make “improvements”. But these days are far and few between, and most of the time, I feel settled and happy. As someone who was once a good 20 pounds lighter than I am now, I can tell you that being at a lower weight did not make me happier. Feeding my body nutritious, healthy food that makes my brain and my body happy (and satiated) and engaging in exercise that I truly enjoy has made me happier. It is important to respect your body, and a large part of respect means giving it lots of fresh, natural, delicious foods but it also means stopping the daily scale habit and having a special treat when you want one. It is about enjoying the journey of life and health, not being in a constant battle with yourself.
Hopefully this post was useful. It is a different topic than just general nutrition education, but I think your mental health has such a powerful impact on your physical health. Life has been pretty crazy for me lately, so hopefully I will get back on a semi-normal blogging schedule soon, but this was a post I felt needed to get out there.
Thanks for reading!
As someone that has struggled with my weight all my life I feel like I’m starting to understand exactly what you are saying in this blog and I’m in total agreement. I’m still in the leaning stage, but I find the more I understand what my body needs and give it what it needs the better I feel. I still have a way to go. Thanks for this blog Alli you give me hope and understanding for healthier me.
Thank you for this post. In a society obsessed with having the “perfect” body we definitely need more people advocating health over looks. Chasing that “perfect” body didn’t make me happy, and it didn’t make me healthy, but it did make me develop an eating disorder. I wish I knew then that the perfect body is the one you already have, and that the best way to be healthy is to love your body and treat it right. Keep sending out the right message, there’s so many people that still need to hear it!