Whole Body Health is Not Just The Number on the Scale
New Year's Resolutions are funny things- while growth, change, and reflection are terrific processes, they are often rooted in guilt and shame, especially when it comes to health, movement, and weight. I was in NYC for a few days last week, and I was bombarded by health resolution posters and promotionals all over the city, from "Battle Your Bulge with us" to "Don't blame the holidays for your fat- it's your fault" to "New Year, New You" and everything in between. Supplements, meal replacement bars, and shake powders were on sale at Whole Foods, and magazines (as usual) featured "5 Quick Moves to Burn Fat/Build Abs/etc." It was frankly overwhelming at times, but it really hit home this big misnomer that your weight or appearance dictates your health. Now I'm all for people moving more, trying new exercise things, and eating more plants, but weight is not the most important signifier of good or bad health. Our media culture promotes weight as the sole metric for determining someone's whole health regime, and it tells very little. If you want to really assess your health, ask questions like, am I in physical pain often? Are there places in my body that always hurt? How's my energy? How's my digestion? Where are my body blind spots of weakness? Where can I improve my strength? Where can I improve mobility and range? How often do I walk? How well do I sleep? How often do I drink alcohol and caffeine? Could I eat healthier foods more often? How is my cholesterol, blood pressure, etc? And so forth.
I'm all for people getting motivated to be healthier, but health is so much more than weight loss. One of my movement idols, Katy Bowman, did a year in review podcast on health and wellness accomplishments, and she focused on where she gained strength, added miles to family walks, slept better, and so forth. I loved it, and it made me realize all of my health success for 2015 that might not show up on a scale- I walked over 2000 miles throughout the year, meditated regularly, maintained a regular self-massage routine, and improved my leg alignment and hip strength. I use furniture less often, have a standing desk, and my calves have gotten happier and less tense. I lost and gained a few pounds throughout the year, but all within a 5-7 lb range, and when I went to my endocrinologist for my last pituitary tumor checkup, she gave me a hard time about gaining 5 pounds. I mostly ignored her, because she is a physician that wears high heels to work and is not my favorite doctor in general, but it led to me thinking about all the different markers of health that we ignore in favor of the number on the scale. I wanted to tell her about my walking, my improve hip ROM, my new movement trainings, and my adventures in strength training, but she honestly wouldn't have cared. It doesn't matter that my blood work is impeccable, that my pituitary gland is mostly functioning normally (which is a success in itself), or that I mysteriously had three different infections in the fall which could have impacted weight gain (I get sicker now with my meds/diagnosis than I ever did before). She literally just distilled my health to my weight.
So, if you're feeling that January weight-loss bug, remember that the U.S. weight loss market totaled $64 billion in 2014, which includes diet frozen foods, diet beverages, and weight loss centers for starters. It's a business that relies on making you feel bad about your weight, appearance, and size, in order to generate revenue. Even if you do want to eat healthier (or lose weight), look at those other markers of health- how you feel, your overall strength, sleep schedule, eating habits, and movement habits to see where you could improve. Whole body health is not just a number on the scale.
Also, read this article: What 8 Body Positive Activists Have To Say About Losing Weight