I’m an advocate for weight loss not because I believe you need to weigh less, but rather because the process of losing weight and getting healthy improved my life drastically. During the process of changing my health I began to heal my mind and discovered exercise and whole food provided me with much more than a change in physical appearance–it spared me looming anxiety and depression and restored my self-confidence. I believe health of mind AND body is important, but I’m not foolish enough to pretend “being skinny” doesn’t make a difference in self-esteem. Certainly not for everyone, but for many! Our culture nearly demands that women be skinny. Not only that, once you shrink to the point of cultural acceptance, you are then fed a constant stream of “Get more fit! Get more toned! Get more defined! Train more/better/longer! Set bigger goals! Improve your PRs!” Women in particular are led to believe if we aren’t ripped, sculpted, perfectly proportioned, a size 2, or constantly chasing an improvement in our stats, that we aren’t really fit or healthy…or worthy.
Being healthy doesn’t seem to be revered in our culture, rather what is revered is if you LOOK healthy. Worse yet, how healthy looks for a woman is currently a pretty narrow view: very lean, very cut, no roundness to the body, flat abs, no cellulite, no hips. Most gyms have whacked out counter-culture to HEALTH, too. They send the vibe “Unless you look the part, don’t expect any attention or help here.”
Gyms aren’t the only problem. The fitness industry furthers the problem, too. Most of the publications I receive still lean heavily to articles about improving your clients physique. There is more information recently about proper nutrition, but it usually comes along with how it will change your physical appearance. The focus really isn’t health…it still boils down to getting your clients to look or perform a certain way.
I’m not opposed to building a physique that you want or striving to attain challenging goals. How each of us wants to train our body is our own choice. What I’m trying to get across to you is the health of your body doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with how your body looks. You can carry extra body fat and be healthy. Society doesn’t like that, but a body can be healthy just the same. You can be healthy without six pack abs and sculpted arms. You can be healthy without continually beating your body for new PRs. Pushing your body to the limit to achieve new goals is great…if that is your choice…but again, it doesn’t mean you are healthier because you now can run 30 seconds faster than your last race time.
The World Health Organization defines “health” as: a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Think about this! Are you eating well the majority of the time? Do you move your body regularly? Are your blood lipids in line? Do you manage stress constructively? Do you talk positively to yourself? Do you feel well with enough energy? Do you sleep well? These questions have to do with HEALTH. Health is not about a body fat percentage, or your new lifting record, or a new race best-time, or the size of your clothes.
What I’m trying to give you is permission to be healthy…to just BE, without the pressure of constant betterment or the pressure to look a certain way. You can choose to train to push your body to further limits. You can also choose to maintain your health and not live daily to make the next target or outcome. It’s the same song I’ve been singing: What Works For You! (WWFY!) If health maintenance is where you are at, I’m here to tell you, that is perfectly worthy because it is a reflection of your choices and WWFY!