“You can live the rest of your life without knowing how much you weigh.”
Does that sound radical and maybe even unfathomable?
The statement comes from registered dietitian Christina Frangione, who suggests we all can say “no weigh” to measuring your health with diet culture’s ruler: the scale.
While we may believe health is manipulating our bodies to an “ideal” weight and maintain that weight throughout our lifetimes, that belief is false. In fact, it’s making many of us less healthy.
Created by the $72 billion dollar diet industry, healthy-as-thin has infiltrated the nutrition and fitness industries, duping far too many of us into a lifetime filled with food preoccupation, exercise obsession and body dissatisfaction.
Does that sound healthy?
‘Ideal’ weight is a fallacy
As a culture we are obsessed with the number on the scale and the belief that we have an “ideal” weight.
You know, that number — the number you weighed when you were 22, pre-baby, on the ski racing team, when you were restricting gluten, dairy, sugar on your 21-day detox, after your fitness contest. Or maybe that number is simply one you’ve been told you should attain but have never weighed.
We get that one number stuck in our heads and believe we can’t like our bodies or be happy and healthy until the scale sings it. Whatever pops up on the scale sparks joy or utter despair, all in a matter of seconds.
Again, that’s not healthy.
As a body image and redefining wellness ambassador, I must remind you that weight doesn’t necessarily indicate your best health because bodies are born different sizes and shapes.
Some bodies are naturally small, and others are naturally big. Small bodies may be healthy or unhealthy. Big bodies may be healthy or unhealthy. Every body is different.
It’s understandable that we focus on scale weight, as that’s all we’ve ever been taught: Lose weight, get healthier.
But that’s not the case for every body. For some, attaining and maintaining a thin body comes with relative ease. If you’re thin or have lost weight and kept it off by honoring your body’s needs, that’s wonderful. But it doesn’t mean every body can do it.
As a former “eat this, not that” nutrition coach and fitness professional, I had that false belief because, frankly, I live in a body that’s naturally thin.
But for many, focusing on attaining an “ideal” weight is a full-time job and a struggle. It takes an incredible amount of time and energy to force your body into a size it was never meant to be. In many cases, it can’t be done.
You are not failure when that happens. It’s diet culture that’s failing you.
If you need to maintain a strict eating and exercise regime to maintain your “ideal” weight, that’s not a healthy weight for you. We normalize restrictive eating and obsessive exercise and call it healthy. It’s not.
Perhaps you do attain your goal weight. At what cost, and is it sustainable? For most, that “success” is fleeting, leading us into a life of yo-yo dieting and a desperate hunt for the next eating and exercise plan promising to fix our bodies.
Even more distressing, when you focus solely on an “ideal” weight and see little to no change, you may give up on healthy behaviors despite dramatic improvements in health markers, like improved cholesterol, blood sugar and cardiovascular health.
And, finally, diet culture doesn’t tell you that your body is meant to change naturally throughout life’s stages. As a 52-year old post-menopausal woman, my body weight and shape has shifted. Scale numbers will fluctuate daily and throughout your lifetime.
But I have to lose weight
I can hear you pushing back: “But what if I am trying to lose weight for my health, not my appearance?”
You’re told to lose weight as the sole solution to having health challenges such as diabetes, thyroid conditions, knee pain.
People in thin bodies have those health problems too. But only people in heavier bodies are told to lose weight to solve them.
As a mind-body-nutrition coach I have respect for every body, regardless of weight. Together we focus on the healthy behaviors that your unique whole body needs, and we allow your weight to be where you feel nourished, not punished or controlled.
Don’t worry: Not focusing on weight loss doesn’t mean you’re giving up on your body or your health. It means that you are prioritizing whole health and feeling good over a number on the scale. It means that you are enhancing your overall health by freeing up precious time and energy — mental, emotional and physical.
So if you’re not focusing on scale weight, then what?
Listen and nourish
“When weight loss is the goal,” intuitive eating counselor Krista Murias said, “depriving and restricting the body become more important than listening to and nourishing it.”
Listen to your body. Diet culture has convinced us to tune out.
Stop forcing yourself to eat kale if you hate it. Stop forcing yourself to trot in the Turkey Day 5K to “earn” your holiday dinner. As clinical psychologist Dr. Coleen Reichman said: “Sometimes it’s healthier to skip the workout. Your soul probably needs more attention than your glutes today.”
Focus on healthy behaviors, not the number on scale. When you do, you can let the weight stigma against yourself go and finally find real freedom and intuition with food and fitness to live your best life.
Be a rebel. Dump your scale.
Listen. Your body is talking
In addition to truly healthful behaviors like intuitive eating and pursuing movement that makes you feel good, listen for your other needs like:
• more sleep
• a job change
• saying no unless it’s a, “hell yes!”
• more frequent vacations
• learning to communicate more effectively
• connecting with your partner
(This article was published in the November 13, 2019 edition of the Jackson Hole News and Guide).