I grew up with my weight and body size as a measure of my health.
I’d get praised for losing weight or dropping a pants size. My parents would complain when they gained 10 lbs and talk about how “disgusting” they were.
I think this is pretty common for American culture. We tend to assess our personal value and health by our weight, size, and the amount of fat on our body.
These are not accurate measures of our health. They do not directly correlate to health. When I was at my thinnest in my life, I had lost weight due to depression and disordered eating. I was as far from good health as I had ever been. And yet, everyone looked at me and praised me for the weight I lost.
Our culture correlates health with:
Thinness/lack of fat on body
Fruits, veggies, and green smoothies
I’m not new in pointing out our flawed measures of health. Decades-old movements like “Health at Every Size” and “Intuitive Eating” clearly lay out why our current health measures sabotage us.
So if we’re not going to measure health by our weight, size, or activities, how do we measure health?
We can explore that by asking ourselves how we would like to feel in our bodies and what activities we would like to do in our lives.
The answers will be unique for everyone. Some examples could include:
Feel more energized
Be Able to do daily tasks with more ease
Feel more physically comfortable walking my dog
Become stronger as to be able to lift heavier things
Have stamina to go on longer hikes
Trust my body more
Feel more connected to my body
We can use the above as measures of our overall health and determine appropriate actions to achieve them, such as taking an additional walk each week or signing up for a strength training class.
As we set health goals, we can also be mindful of our limitations and honor them. For example, due to my connective tissue, high impact activities like running or burpees are not a good option for me.
We can also approach the food we eat in a similar way. Instead of moralizing food (which is when we say a certain food is bad and a certain food is good), we can set goals that relate to how we feel in our body.
Here are some examples:
Maintain energy level throughout the day
More streamlined digestive system (less constipation)
Able to focus more
We can then determine the actions we need to reinforce our goals. For example, drinking more water to decrease constipation.
By approaching our health in this manner, we maintain and support our connection with our body. Instead of punishing it into cultural standards of size, shape, and looks, we become attuned to its needs and honor them.
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