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SALT LAKE CITY — The way we feel about our bodies matters. In fact, feeling content in our own skin might actually be a more important indicator for overall health than the number on the scale. Don’t misunderstand: Obesity is undoubtedly linked to a wide array of health issues. But how we think about and perceive our bodies is another important factor to consider as we make efforts to improve our overall health.
Some people think that feeling happy and content in your skin indicates that you are OK with an unhealthy body or that you’ve given up; on the contrary, health starts at every size. Health isn’t a magical destination but a journey each of us is embarking on whether we start off at 5 or 500 pounds over our comfortable weight. And feeling happy and content in your own skin is something everyone can work on regardless of whether you’re underweight, obese or anything in between.
There are many myths about weight, body image and health. Breaking free of these misunderstandings can clear the path to a healthful, happy life that is right for you individually — mentally and physically. The following is a list of health myths and how you might consider reframing your health paradigm.
MYTH 1: Motivation only comes to people who get 'fed up' enough with their appearance
FACT: Motivation for exercise and healthy eating can stem from a sense of love for your body instead of hate. People who feel better about their bodies tend to take better care of them. People who accept and are overall positive about their bodies tend to exercise more and even tend to eat an overall healthier diet. You don’t need to loathe yourself to move toward a healthy lifestyle; in fact, adopting a sense of self-love and acceptance is more likely to lead to the results you want.
MYTH 2: Being overweight is unhealthy
FACT: A recent review of over 100 studies surrounding weight and mortality risk concluded that being in the overweight BMI category is associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality relative to normal weight BMI category. So why trust the BMI scale as a life-or-death matter? Find the right weight for you by ditching dieting and eating wholesome, well-balanced foods. It’s important to recognize that there are true flaws with body mass index as a measurement of health.
MYTH 3: Dieting is the answer to weight struggles
FACT: Yo-yo dieting and weight cycling have been associated with greater incidence of diabetes, hypertension, insulin sensitivity and mortality. The on-again/ off-again nature of diets is not helpful long-term and likely does more harm than good.
MYTH 4: As long as you try hard enough, anyone can lose the amount of weight she/he wants to lose
FACT: Genetics play a large role in the way our bodies react and adapt to healthy eating efforts and exercise. Some are naturally slim and others are naturally more muscular; body shapes and sizes vary. Understanding your own genetic endowment is an important step in being more positive about your body.
MYTH 5: Adopting a Health At Every Size (HAES) approach won’t really lead to healthy improvements
FACT: There is support from multiple randomized controlled studies that shows statistically significant improvement in physiological measures (blood pressure, blood lipids), health behaviors and an improvement in mood, self-esteem and body image with adopting a HAES approach. You can see real improvements in overall mental and physical health by focusing on health at the size you are now.
Stop the constant cycle of body loathing, dieting, restricting, giving up, trying again, weight gain, weight loss, etc. This is not healthy for your body, mind or soul.
If you are dissatisfied with your body shape or size, take steps to improve your eating habits and exercise. In addition to those healthy lifestyle changes, consider how you might be able to adopt an approach of health in the here and now — exactly as you are.
Health isn’t a destination. It’s a journey. Focus on the whole picture of your health and don’t forget about taking care of yourself mentally. Health isn’t something you magically get to when you’re a certain weight. It starts right now wherever you may be. Health can be realized and accomplished at any size.
Paige is a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializing in helping people heal their relationship with food. She is the host of Nutrition Matters Podcast and has a private nutrition consulting business based in Salt Lake City. Follow her on Facebook or Instagram for recipes and more food for thought.