Hello friend! I hope you’ve been having a beautiful week thus far. Today I want to share something with you that is near and dear to my heart: The concept that your WEIGHT and SIZE don’t really tell me (or other nutritionists) anything about how healthy you are.
As a woman you are likely often told that once you lose the elusive last 10 pounds that all your cares and worries will melt away. Well as someone who has lost those 10 pounds, several times in fact ;), I can unequivocally tell you that idea is a blatant lie. Let’s take a look at some of the key indicators of health and why your weight really has nothing to do with it.
As someone who works with food I invariably get a ton of clients who come to see me hoping to lose weight. Some of them do have medically indicated conditions for which some weight loss would be beneficial.
But most of them? Well let’s just say that our culture has done a bang up job of telling beautiful, healthy, strong women that they take up too much space and that their bodies are horrifyingly disgusting unless there’s a set of six pack abs, a perky yoga bum, and super ripped guns.
In my health journey I talk about some of my struggles with binging and purging, excessive exercising, and restrictive food behaviours. When I was living through these cycles I would often get down to my “goal” weight of 110-125 pounds (depending on my age and what I thought I needed to look like).
But do you know what that took? A 2 hour workout followed by a 45 minute swim combined with eating about 1000 calories a day. Plus walking to and from the gym/school as much as possible and a CONSTANT focus on what was going into my body and how I could balance it out.
I was tired. All I ever thought about was food, and not in the dreamy “I can’t wait to create this new recipe and nourish my body with all these yummy things” kind of way, but in a vicious cycle of planning calories and when/what I should eat.
I was anxious because I was afraid if one wrong thing passed my lips I would gain 5, 10, 15 pounds and people would turn away in disgust at my horribly lumpy and unattractive body.
Needless to say, this obsession and brutalizing of my body, mind, and spirit is not remotely close to the concept of health I now embody and share with my clients. All of the above habits and feelings, even though I was thin, do not scream health. Do you want to know what does? Let’s look at a little list of ACTUAL markers of health and wellness.
1. You can digest, absorb, and assimilate the food you put into your body.
Being able to eat a meal and not suffer from gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, or excessive belching is a really great indicator of overall digestive health. And as you’ve learned, a healthy gut is one of the foundational requirements for lasting wellness. Here are some great tips and tricks for nourishing your digestive system.
2. You wake up feeling energized and excited for the day ahead.
This piece of the puzzle actually incorporates both a physical wellness and an emotional wellness. If you are not getting restful, restorative sleep regularly then you are setting yourself up for chronic illness down the line. So keeping track of how you feel upon waking in terms of either a crushing fatigue or a restored body can be a great way to keep track of your potential for long term health.
The second piece of this puzzle is how excited you are to get up and greet the day. I can tell when something is not in alignment with my passion and purpose because I will stay up super late knowing that when I get up in the morning I’m going to have to do X thing that sucks. That’s when I take a look at what’s going on and revaluate what I’ve invited into my life.
Now that’s not to say there aren’t tedious parts of my work (invoicing anyone?), but for the most part I wake up excited to share myself and my work with those around me because what I’m doing feeds my soul and doesn’t feel like work.
If you wake up dreading each and every day, I invite you to sit with yourself and try to figure out why. Then take steps to make a change.
I’m not suggesting you go out and quit your job, but if you dread going to work, maybe you could talk to your boss about being put onto more exciting projects, or you could listen to a really great podcast or e-book during your commute, or maybe you start a lunch club with your colleagues where you take turns bringing in a new food to try and then eat it together, family style.
There are lots of small ways to improve your life that don’t require huge overhauls if that’s not what you need, so look for them and work out how to bring that into your day.
3. You can move your body regularly without suffering from aches, pains, or excessive fatigue.
Part of being healthy is being able to actually move your body around without getting winded after a few steps. Maybe you can run a mile, lift some heavy things without straining your back, take part in a dance/yoga/boxing class, or even just lift and play with you kids.
What you want is to have functional movement ability so that when you enter into your golden years you don’t lose complete mobility. Exercise and movement is also crucial for keeping your brain healthy and happy, thereby warding off the scariest of diseases (in my opinion anyway), dementia and Alzheimer’s.
4. You don’t suffer from chronic food cravings or binging/restrictive cycles.
Food cravings are often a sign of imbalances in the physical and/or emotional body and when you suffer from them it’s your body’s way of telling you that there is something you need to work on.
I just want you to recognize that there is a difference between mindfully indulging in a food that you know may not promote optimal health, and being compelled to eat that food even though you don’t really want to. That is the primary distinction between food cravings and self-sabotaging behaviours.
You can read more about this in my in-depth, six-part series on self-sabotage: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, and part 6. And my post on stopping self-sabotage. Or download my handy and totally free Stop Self-Sabotage workbook here!
5. You see your body as a partner, not the enemy.
Too often as a woman you have likely been taught that you need to fight your body and whip her into shape to fit a specific concept of “beauty.” I’m here to let you in on a little secret: Your life will change as soon as you stop fighting your body and start treating her with love and respect.
It won’t happen overnight. In fact I’d argue that it is an ongoing process that requires mindfulness and the conscious decision to practice loving kindness. But I’ve also found that these things that take the most work are often the most rewarding.
I don’t have a magic formula to make you stop hating your body, but some things that worked for me include: yoga, journaling, meditation, mindfulness, and picturing my body as my best friend and thus treating her with the kindness, understanding, compassion, and love I usually reserve for the other people in my life.
These are just a few of the markers I use to measure health that have absolutely nothing to do with weight. There are tons more, but this post is already getting super long so I will add them to Part 2, which you can read by clicking here!
If you’re looking for a way to kick-start some healthy habits and figure out which foods are keeping you feeling sluggish, bloated, or anxious then check out my Reset Yourself Nutrition Challenge! I’ve already got a great group excited to start May 15th. You can read about all the details here.
Have a fabulous day!