Wanna know what really annoys me?
Well, it’s two things really.
1.) I find it really awful how much the fitness/nutrition/medical worlds conflate weight with health. (here’s my insta post today where I break it down) It’s to the point where it is really confusing and harming people. Including you and I!
How often have you seen an article online or a news story that proclaims something as HEALTHY! just because a single study showed that it *might* lead to weight loss, or something else as UNHEALTHY! because there’s a chance it might make you gain weight.
It’s nuts. it completely ignores the complexity of health and the many factors that contribute to it.
And, it’s SCARY! It’s this kind or reporting and bad advice that leads so many people to engage in “healthy” (read: weight loss promoting) behaviors in an attempt to improve their health while completely ignoring how these behaviors are actually effecting them.
2.) All of this focus on losing weight in the name of health has completely stolen the spotlight from other, WAY more important things we could be doing for our health – and quality of life in general.
While we are spending time and energy and dollars on calorie tracking apps and supplements and arguing whether cardio or weightlifting is “better” (you know, for weight loss), where is the discussion of mental health? Of engaging in movement that is fun and safe? Of ending discrimination and other systemic causes of stress? Of eating ENOUGH food to meet all of our nutrient and energy needs? Of addressing the actual underlying causes of diseases?
It’s out there, for sure, but not as loud as the “lose weight at all costs” message. I’m really glad your following me and getting these emails so I can balance the conversation a little in your world.
In order to clear up some confusion and hopefully get you thinking a little more about what your body ACTUALLY needs to be healthy, here’s a list of some “healthy” things that really aren’t that health-promoting, and also a list of things that are SOOOO good for you but tend to get put on the back-burner in favor of pursing weight loss.
“Healthy” things that aren’t that healthy:
- Super low calorie diets. It’s really common to aim to eat <1200 calories a day, or even get prescribed this kind of diet by doctors. But this is not enough food! You must eat more than this in order to get enough nutrients to support the many important systems in your body. I honestly don’t care what MyFitnessPal says you need to do to hit your goals. You need to eat more – especially if you are exercising.
- Drinking a crap ton of water: yes, hydration is important. But drinking too much water isn’t good for you. Especially if you are using it as a way to suppress hunger and eat less. Drinking lots of water but not getting adequate minerals from food throw your electrolytes out of balance. It can also interfere with proper digestion, which is already an issue many people deal with and don’t want to exacerbate.
- Daily intense exercise: there are people who can workout really hard everyday, but those people are athletes who make a point to eat and rest enough each day in order to maintain this level of activity. Most of us don’t have enough time in our days to dedicate to recovery in order to handle daily intense exercise. Rest is so important! Without enough of it, we risk over-exercising which can lead to hormonal imbalance, adrenal disfunction, digestive issues, and injuries. Take a couple rest days!!!
- Low carb/ keto /fasting: Low carb diets, ketogenic diets, and fasting have become very popular recently – mostly due to the claims that they are essentially magic bullets for weight loss. These ways of eating do have therapeutic uses (for management of diabetes or seizure disorders, for example) and some people’s bodies function really well eating in these ways (especially men who do not do a lot of high-intensity exercise). However, for most people, these dietary protocols are not necessary, can be really hard to do and lead to a lot of emotional stress, or even being very incompatible with one’s biology and have a bunch of physical side effects. Try out different ways of eating, but remember that if you don’t feel good, you don’t have to eat that way!
- Tracking everything calorie and step: Tracking what you eat and how much you move can be good data to collect for a short period of time to learn about your behaviors. But, the belief that we must do this in order to be healthy is quite disordered. So, when we don’t have a “perfect” day according to our tracking apps, we’ve created prime fuel for the shame fire. Getting obsessed with hitting your numbers and maintaining streaks of calorie intake and steps-taken perfection is REALLY easy to do and can just as easily become a ruler against which we measure our worth. It also reinforces the Diet Culture beliefs that our bodies are not to be trusted. Basically relying on an app to track your every bite and move can easily spiral into something mentally and emotionally detrimental, and that stress can have negative implications on overall health.
That’s enough of the negativity. What about things that are actually good for us? The good news is, theres a lot of them. The bad news is, since they don’t promise weight loss, they are often ignored. Let’s give them the attention they deserve!
Things that are actually good for you, even though they don’t have to do with losing weight:
- Eating enough food: Getting enough energy and nutrients from food is SUPER important for the many systems in our bodies to function properly. In fact many people cannot find resolution to medical conditions like amenorrhea, low thyroid function, HPA-axis dysfunction, and nutrient deficiencies until they start eating significantly more food. So eat up! You need it!!
- Prioritizing sleep quality: I think we all know that sleep is important, but somehow many people still try to get by on insignificant hours, which are probably pretty poor quality hours. Sleep is important because it is when the body heals. It is when the muscles recover, hormonal patterns reset, the brain stores memories, and the entire body can prioritize resources for healing and restoration. Don’t discount how much of an impact consistent, good quality sleep can have on your health! Plan for enough hours, do relaxing things before bed, make the room dark and cold, invest in a comfortable mattress and pillow. It’ll feel great, I promise 🙂
- Doing exercise you actually enjoy: Doing exercise that you don’t like really sucks. It feels like a chore and a burden and its hard to stick with long term. Regular movement is really good for you! But its even better if you chose your exercise modalities based what you actually enjoy, not just what might be best for weight loss.
- Finding solutions for the stressful problems in your life: Stress is a driving factor in disease. In fact, many of the diseases that are linked to obesity are more than likely being caused by the endless chronic stress most of us experience in our lives. Stress from things like work, family, relationships, and money actually has a significant impact on our health. It can be tempting to ignore these issues and try to use weight loss to resolve our health problems, but losing weight wont erase the stress in the rest of your life. Health is related to ALL aspects of life – not just how we eat and move. It is crucial that we honor this fact!
- Spending time having fun with people you love: People who diet often have a common complaint – they feel like it is impossible to stick to their diet and maintain a social life at the same time. But here’s the good thing, having a fulfilling social life is arguably better for your health than having a “perfect” diet! One of the main reasons people feel inclined to diet is because they think they need to have a better body before they are worthy of connection and belonging. This isn’t true! It’s a diet culture lie. You are worthy of connection and belonging just as you are, and the best way to FEEL connected and like you belong is to foster healthy friendships and spend quality time with the people you love.
- Making an appointment with your therapist: Seriously. Do it. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and just as you are inclined to eat well, exercise, and go to the doctor to take care of your physical health, it is also such a good idea to recruit a professional to help you take care of your mental and emotional health. Therapists can help you navigate those stressful life situations, and support you in your body image efforts! No, you wont lose 2lbs each time you see a shrink, but you WILL be happier and healthier because of it.
Whoohoo! that one sure turned into a monster. Maybe one day I’ll learn how to write a short blog post.
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