By recognizing health is more than just your body size, your perspective shifts towards one of abundant possibilities. Let’s take a closer look at all the amazing aspects that make up your well-being.
BY: JILL CLODFELTER-MASON, RDN, CD
Health-promoting behaviors are important to carry through life – those that feel right to you, and are done for the sake of health versus weight loss. As we continue to shift our health paradigm to one that emphasizes why the size of our body does not equal health, it’s even more essential to know the variety of factors which influence our wellness.
Here are a few different ways to empower your well-being and prioritize your health without focusing on the scale.
1. POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS
According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch, in addition to bringing us some serious joy, having good relationships is as positive for our health as obtaining a proper amount of sleep, eating well-balanced meals, and refraining from smoking.
Having uplifting relationships may, in fact, increase our lifespan. One reason for this is that having strong, positive relationships with others helps decrease our stress levels. So why not free up some of the time that has been dedicated to a scale and do something fun with someone who makes your heart smile! Or gradually work towards creating new and uplifting relationships.
2. REDUCING STRESS
We know that chronic stress can cause our bodies to be more vulnerable to illness, in addition to making it more difficult to obtain adequate rest. But long-term stress may also play a role in the development of hypertension, heart challenges, and diabetes – in addition to negatively impacting our mental health.
We also know that finding ways to reduce our stress levels through meditation and yoga can empower our well-being. Meditating doesn’t require being at the top of a mountain with a perfect view – and not having any responsibility for the day. If you have a few moments, you can explore meditation from anywhere, from your desk to taking a meditation class or using a meditation app.
Yoga is another great way to reduce stress levels, improve your mental well-being, and even promote better digestion. There are so many different ways to decompress, you just have to find what works for you!
3. ADEQUATE SLEEP
Sometimes, it can feel almost impossible to obtain enough sleep when life is so busy, and it can feel difficult to obtain the recommended 7+ hours of sleep per day for adults ages 18-60. However, inadequate sleep lowers our metabolic rate and increases our appetite, may induce insulin resistance – which over time is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease – and may worsen A1C levels in individuals who are already living with type 2 diabetes.
On a positive note, some individuals who are chronically sleep-deprived may experience enhanced insulin sensitivity when obtaining more shuteye – meaning that they are more easily able to use the insulin that their bodies produce – which can be helpful for blood sugar levels. Not to mention, adequate sleep can help us manage our stress levels, and feel more focused and energized.
4. PROPER HEALTH CARE FOR PREVENTION AND WHEN NEEDED
As a whole, health practitioners have wonderful intentions and work hard to provide the best possible care to their patients. Unfortunately, the quality of this care can be greatly reduced when weight stigma or weight bias occurs. There are people who are living in larger bodies who have expressed that they no longer make doctor’s appointments due to the weight stigma that they have experienced.
Weight stigma can harm a person – physically and mentally – and is an independent risk factor for chronic health conditions. Weight stigma can also lead to missing a diagnosis as a result of thinking that a thin-bodied person is “healthy,” and it can result in a health practitioner not diagnosing a condition or treating a condition due to being distracted by a person’s higher weight – and just suggesting weight loss.
In certain cases it can be life-threatening when conditions are untreated early, so it’s important for the health professional community as a whole to recognize what weight bias is so we can do better and heal it. It’s the only way to provide far more effective care to all patients, and promote equality for all.
5. JOYFUL MOVEMENT
If your doctor has indicated that it’s safe for you to obtain physical activity, focusing on moving your body in ways that bring you joy, and feel good to your body is one way to work towards empowering your health. In particular, it’s about moving your body for the sake of health versus to lose weight.
Many people who go on a diet will solely exercise when they’re dieting, and stop exercising when the diet comes to a screeching halt. In contrast, if you’re moving your body for the sake of health, and focus on the fact that a certain physical activity brings you extra joy, promotes heart health, and energizes you, it can be far more motivating to continue participating in that physical activity.
In addition to having a healthier mindset, physical activity may decrease the chances of developing different chronic health conditions, relieve stress, improve the ability to sleep well, assist with managing blood sugar levels, preserve lean muscle mass, promote brain and bone health, and enhance one’s energy level and mood. It’s also worth noting that matching the level of the intensity of the exercise with your current level of physical fitness is important.
By focusing on how you feel before, during, and after, physical activity is particularly helpful for figuring out which movements really help your body feel well – in addition to helping you feel extra happy, energized, and alert.
Remember, health-promoting behaviors can empower our overall health, at any size.
Implementing health-promoting behaviors enables us to work towards enhancing our wellness from multiple angles to make realistic, long-lasting changes that feel right to us. However, it’s also important to acknowledge that you are not obligated to work towards empowering your health.
Even if you would like to put more energy into your health, recognize that we are all going through different phases in life. For example, if you have recently injured your body due to over-exercising, then resting your body, truly evaluating what was behind the compulsive exercising, and healing the root cause would be a stronger way to support your well-being.
Or if you’re currently grieving a loss, taking a shower, getting dressed, and making it through the day is the main focus right now. Tune in to what your body and mind need, and the rest will follow.
This is your life, and your body.
Adapted from the original article.
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Jill Clodfelter-Mason, RDN, CD, is a private practice dietitian, health coach, food blogger, and owner of Cultivate Joy Nutrition in central Indiana. She assists her clients with developing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies. Jill’s mission is to help women overcome the ‘shoulds’ that rule their lives, so they can become fully present in celebrating delicious, nourishing foods and reconnecting with who they are – mind, body, and soul. To learn more about Jill, check out her website, www.cultivatejoynutrition.com, and follow her on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook @cultivatejoynutrition.