Why Weight is Not the Only Indicator of Health

NYC Registered Dietitian Busts Diet Myths

Beauty in All Sizes

I recently came across this Atlantic Monthly article, “Why it Was Easier to be Skinny in the 1980s.” Though I begrudge the word “skinny” in the headline, the article made a lot of sense. 

40 – 50 years ago, we ate, and moved, a lot differently. Even McDonald’s was a very different food – less processed and fresher than what we get at the golden arches today. Moreover, science is looking hard into the chemicals we are exposed to in the environment, our food, drugs, and additives like artificial sweeteners. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone is looking at genetic alternations to the genome to see if these factors have made changes at a genetic level as well.

Group Fitness

And consider movement – or lack thereof. Everything from having to stand up to change the TV channel to having to physically get to a library to get information (librarians are the original Google), have bumped us down a notch (or ten) when it comes to movement. This is especially true regarding younger generations who, at one time, spent their summers outside but now have fallen into the allure of technology – video games, social media, and selfies. Oh-the-selfies! 

I’m not waxing nostalgic. But the changes in our bodies and how it seems more difficult to maintain a healthy weight warrants thought. Our bodies have changed, and the environment, technology, and thousands of other factors have added to this change. So many clients come to me with a goal of losing weight. But weight is far from being the only indicator of health, and dieting is not necessarily the best way to improve health. 

So, let’s tuck the word “diet” away, and talk about what really matters.

  1. Health is not a number. A person’s BMI is not diagnostic of a person’s body fatness or health. BMI doesn’t tell anyone how much muscle mass a person has or where body fat is distributed. Also, weight is not an indicator of health. Weight is simply the number that tells you how much pressure your body puts on your shoes. 
  2. Healthy bodies come in different shapes and sizes. Though popular magazines and fashion shows want to force-feed us skinny, these covers are not a reflection of the beautiful body diversity of the world. Body diversity honors different ages, races, ethnicities and genders. Body diversity doesn’t stick us in a cookie-cutter world. It “challenges scientific and cultural assumptions,” as Linda Bacon writes. 
  3. What you eat matters. This is essential. The quality of the food you eat will make a big impact on your health. Eating clean, being aware of what is on your plate, where food comes from, is one of the biggest differences between healthy and unhealthy bodies. Plain and simple. Food quality and variety mean health. 

Adventure

This month take time to consider what your body is capable of – whether your legs take you through a hike in the park, a stroll in a museum, even through a rigorous spinning class. Celebrate the gifts of your body instead of its “perceived” flaws. Step away from the scale and out into life! You deserve it. Your body deserves it.