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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

Throw Out Your New Year’s Resolution to Lose Weight and “Be Healthy”

I grew up with my weight and body size as a measure of my health.

Art Therapist Jackie Schuld shares an illustration of a dinosaur trying to zip up her pants that do not fit
"Gaining Weight" Illustration by Jackie Schuld

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

  • Exercising daily

  • 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:

  • Minimize bloating

  • Maintain energy level throughout the day

  • More streamlined digestive system (less constipation)

  • Able to focus more

  • Enjoy eating

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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