Maybe it is the new year, but I have been reading article after article, even a video, about how someone did X healthy thing for themselves, lost weight, and is now healthier and happier! Whee!
While I am very glad that these people have found things that make them feel good physically, even mentally and emotionally, I have an issue with the fact that they 1) lay most or all of their improvement on weight loss and 2) that their individual solution is THE solution. This assumes that weight loss is the only solution to a myriad of issues. It assumes that there is only one solution for health and that that solution will also lead to weight loss. It assumes that weight loss and good health are equated.
These assumptions are just that, assumptions. Health and weight are not the same thing. There is not only one solution to health issues and weight loss certainly is not it either.
I understand the desire to have a simple, single solution. “If I eat this way (with specific rules), exercise this way, take this vitamin, and spin around 3 times every morning, I will live to an old age without any infirmity or illness!” Whew! That does sound nice doesn’t it? To not have to think too much as you follow the rules. To know that there is a guarantee.
Well, I have some bad news, there is no one solution. Health is individualized and it usually requires listening to your own body, mind, and heart. There certainly are general things that help the majority of people, sleep, decreased stress, nutritionally dense food, body movement, laughter, strong social bonds, clean water, etc, but even these things must be adjusted for the individual. For example, some people must be very careful with their water intake, which is generally the first “healthy” tip that is thrown out there, even among health care providers.
On the other hand, a lack of a simple, generalized health guarantee may be good news actually. It means that each person can create a life of good health for themselves that is tailor made for their preferences, schedules, and abilities. It allows for a freedom self knowledge that one cannot get from someone else, though having a guide and a support person is often very helpful.
One of the articles I read was distressing because the author, someone I know personally, talked about the path that lead to that person’s health and weight loss. We have a mutual friend who also followed that path and, while it improved the second person’s health for a long while, that person’s health deteriorated for reasons beyond reasonable control. Did the second person do something “wrong” because that person’s health results were not the same, long term, as the first? Or, did the first person do something “right” that the second person missed? I would say no. Will the first person, who currently has a high state of health, stay that way forever and live a really long, active life? I certainly hope so! However, no one knows for sure, and if I did, I would be likely be a very wealthy woman.
Weight stigma certainly makes many of us want to be thin, even the thin folks, regardless of how it affects our health. I’d love to believe that most of us, in our heart of hearts, would prefer to be healthy and as able as our bodies allow. To enjoy the time we have on the Earth. To be able to appreciate the people and experiences around us. To be allowed to live the lives we choose to live and not be ashamed to be the people that we are. However, we often seem preoccupied with being thin at almost any cost.
Maybe we can focus our efforts on supporting one another rather than assuming anything about the people around us.
Personally, my focus is to love and appreciate the body I have right at this moment for what it is. Every moment it does amazing things to keep me alive. My body may change over time. It may get closer to the health it seeks or further away. It may change sizes. It may stick with me and allow me to be active until old age. It may experience some issues that significantly change how I interact with the world. All I can do is to be the best steward of this amazing body as possible. I can also spread that love and appreciation to others, to help them see their bodies as the amazing bodies that they are!