Weight loss is a strange thing to work towards. Do you feel better about yourself when doing everything you can to LOSE parts of you? Does depriving yourself of the foods you love make you feel goo?
I also recognize I’m saying this as someone who is statistically “underweight”. It’s a privilege to not be told by doctors that I need to lose weight to be healthy (though, I’ve heard the opposite quite a bit). The thing is: weight is just a number. Weight doesn’t AT ALL equal health.
I have clients who are professional athletes whose BMI would be classified in the “obese” range who are in the best shape of their lives and love their bodies. Weight and BMI are constructs based upon an unachievable standard of caucasian bodies. The BMI was created over 200 years ago by a man who was never a physician or nutrition scientist or biologist but a sociologist who was obsessed with the ‘average man’ who represented a social ideal. 200 years ago – and not even today – the ‘average man’ or woman was a white European man. He wrote essays claiming that people of color were a separate species and were “savages”. When he came up with the formula for the BMI he used only white Scottish and French measurements for his baseline. The BMI is inherently racist.
When we talk about weight and health, did you know that we, as a society, didn’t start putting much thought about the two together until a life insurance company created a table of height and weight as a means of determining how much to charge for insurance?? The information from the table itself was based upon the heights and weights of those who already had insurance thus, didn’t take in to account heights and weights of those who were unable to afford or receive insurance? These weights and heights were self-reported which always always means that the results are skewed down. No one is going to self-report that they are heavier than they actually are, but plenty of people will shave a few pounds (or more) off when reporting to make themselves feel better.
Regardless of your race or financial ability to receive health insurance, it’s obvious that BMI and weight as a measure of health is based on extremely limited opinions and not on actual health or biology.
So, with that information in mind, what is healthy? What is your goal when you say you want to be healthy? It’s not weight loss — or shouldn’t be based on the limited proof of correlation between weight and health. So what?
HERE ARE 10 WAYS I MEASURE HEALTH BOTH IN MYSELF AND MY CLIENTS:
- Easy bowel movements daily
- The ability to perform regular daily tasks without getting out of breath (picking up your kids, walking up and down the stairs)
- Regular menstrual cycles
- Clear and healthy skin
- Regular and healthy sex drive
- Mood stability
- Normal blood pressure and heart rate
- Sleeping patterns
*this list is not exhaustive and will not fit every person
It’s easy in this day and age to think of weight as the end all – be all measure of health. We’re inundated with images of thin women with washboard abs on the beach with their cute families and think ‘oh, if she can look like that I should too!’ — but that’s just untrue. And unfair to your unique biology and needs.
Each of us is born with a perfect genetic blueprint. It determines what size our feet will be, the color of our eyes, the thickness of our hair and yes, our ‘set-point’ of weight. No one goes around trying to change the size of their feet – so why should we be so concerned about the size of our waist?
Now sure, if you’re eating cheeseburgers all day every day you’re going to see an increase in weight. That doesn’t mean that your ‘set-point’ increased and you’re totally fine to continue on your Super Size Me goals. There are absolutely better ways to live your life that will support reaching and maintaining that ‘set-point’ of weight. That’s to say: if you’re eating, moving, living in a way that supports the measures of health and wellness I listed above, then you’re likely going to be closer to that natural ‘set-point’ weight. As well as pooping regularly. Which is honestly one of the most obvious factors of health 😉
Usually when women reach out for nutrition counseling they start with “I want to lose 40pounds” or “I want to get back to my prepregnancy weight” and I get it — I do. I have 4 children and after each one, looking down at my squishy belly thinking ‘is this me?’ is hard. But think outside of the number on the scale. Think about how it would FEEL to reach that desired weight. Would you feel more energized? Happier? Stronger? Now, reframe your goal. “I want to be confident in my body” or “I want to be stronger” or “I want to feel happier” — each of these goals are so so much better than “I want to lose 40pounds” because they’re based on TRUE HEALTH and emotions. Our thoughts, feelings, and emotions drive so much of our daily tasks. The goal of losing 10 pounds isn’t going to get you out of the bed to the gym in the morning but being happier? gaining confidence? these are all things that are way more apt to launch your butt out of bed each morning and lace up your sneakers.
Your health is worth so much more than your weight.
Cullen, F., Wilcox, P., & DeLisi, M. (2012-11-23). Revisiting Lombroso. In The Oxford Handbook of Criminological Theory. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 6 Jul. 2020, from https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199747238.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199747238-e-1.
Garabed Eknoyan, Adolphe Quetelet (1796–1874)—the average man and indices of obesity, Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation, Volume 23, Issue 1, January 2008, Pages 47–51, https://doi.org/10.1093/ndt/gfm517
Karasau, Sylvia. (2016, Mar, 18). Psychology Today. Adolphe Quetelet and the Evolution of BMI. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-gravity-weight/201603/adolphe-quetelet-and-the-evolution-body-mass-index-bmi
Kubergovic, E. (2013, September 14). Quetelet, Adolphe. Retrieved July 6, 2020, from http://eugenicsarchive.ca/discover/connections/5233cb0f5c2ec5000000009c