In honor of Valentine’s Day, we want to talk about a very important relationship. In fact, some might consider this THE MOST important relationship we have. This February we want to talk about love…for OURSELVES.
For a lot of different reasons, our general society has done a pretty terrible job of creating a positive, healthy, and factually reasonable relationship between us, our bodies, and our nutrition and exercise habits. It seems like every other day there’s a new system, product, supplement, surgery, or other money-making advent on the market promising to grant you success in all your body-fixing endeavors, delivering you into absolution from quite possibly a lifetime of chronic self-criticism.
“Change your body and you will LOVE yourself again! We’ll help you do it!”
It’s a great sell because who doesn’t want to be happy with themselves? And hoards of people fall into the trap all…the…time. In our image-focused society, both men and women are bombarded by visual “ideals” of the male and female body, and this just helps the sell.
This near obsession with visual appearance is so pervasive, that there is widely established evidence even health professionals exhibit bias and discrimination against patients who are overweight and obese, leading to altered treatment approaches. It’s no wonder we’re not feeling the self-love.
“But isn’t it unhealthy to be obese? Isn’t that bad?”
No doubt you’ve probably heard of the “obesity epidemic” we have in the U.S. Anything involving the word “epidemic” can’t be good, right? Let’s look at that a bit further to better understand. First, a fact or two about BMI (Body Mass Index):
1. BMI is a weight to height ratio. It says nothing about your body composition (ie. how much is fat, muscle, etc.). This is why someone who has a very unhealthy amount of body fat can have the same BMI as a body builder. One of those bodies, arguably, is considered healthier than the other.
2. BMI is used by health professionals to classify people into weight categories for purposes of predicting the likelihood they’ll develop a weight-related disease. Therefore, BMI is at this time, still a predictor of general health.
3. The scientific community acknowledges that BMI alone is an imperfect measure for general health, and recommends additional measures be accounted for in assigning true risk of disease development (ie. waist circumference, DEXA scan, etc)
So what that means is, it’s not as cut and dry as “fat” and “skinny,” or normal BMI and obese BMI, or six pack and no six pack. Someone with a six pack can have a VERY unhealthy diet, but because of their age, activity level, and a host of other genetic and environmental factors, they’re able to maintain a low body fat percentage. Does this mean that person is healthy? …right, it’s complicated.
Pause…Disclaimer: Neither I nor my colleague Ms. Littau are mental health professionals…but by nature, our jobs as dietitians, as habit-changers, involve a heck of a lot of probing into the mental states of our clients to honor those psychological components of eating. There’s a lot of overlap. Nothing in this article is meant to supersede the instructions of a psychologist, counselor, or other provider, and if you’re struggling with any psychological issues, certainly seek out the assistance of a qualified mental health professional…
In the strong societal construct of the importance of body appearance, it’s even more important to be able to step back and have perspective on the situation, or you can find yourself being swept away with the tide. If you find yourself feeling negatively about your body and its appearance, take one simple initial action…ask yourself, “Why?”
If the answer is, “because I’m fat,” you need to take a deeper look. Are you really? Is that really the issue? Do you really feel like you don’t look good, or do you feel that way because you’ve been conditioned to think the cover models on fitness magazines are “ideal?” Are you otherwise healthy? Do you live a healthy lifestyle?
The answers to all these questions are very important. For example, if you ARE eating poorly, ARE living a sedentary lifestyle, and DO have clinically detectable indicators of disease, these are very good reasons to be making changes. And the beauty of recognizing this, is that the focus turns to your lifestyle, rather than your body weight and appearance. Why is this important? Because habits within your lifestyle are the things you have direct control over. These are the building blocks to your “brick house,” and if you approach the development of these habits with honesty, commitment, and care, you will be setting yourself up for a whole lot of self-love in the areas that truly matter.
This is where things get exciting. If you’re ready for change, and ready to work on living a healthy lifestyle, the right Registered Dietitian can help you do that. No gimmicks, no products, no “systems”…we look for YOUR system. Click on the link below to find a dietitian in your area and get to building your brick house.
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