What The Health?
We live in a culture that likes to give us the rules for health and health management. The cultures version of health suggests that in order to be a “good” person you need to weigh a certain weight, eat a certain way, and move your body a certain way in order to achieve health. This idea of health is very skewed and, unfortunately, unhelpful.
The health, wellness, and fitness industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that has created “health” products they claim promote and increase health. This version of health claims that changing your body is the ideal way to live a longer and healthier life.
The fact is, this idea of health is simply not correct because this idea of health does not consider individual needs, well-being, and resources. This idea of health contributes to shame and stigma.
Health At Every Size ® is a more holistic approach to health and challenges the myths that morality is found in cultural health practices. Let’s look at some of our cultural health myths.
Myth #1: In order to be healthy one must be a certain body size, shape, and weight.
FACT: BMI is not an indication of health or healthy behaviors. All bodies are different, and health is different for every individual.
The health industry likes to use the Body Mass Index to suggest that individuals in a certain range are “healthy” or “not healthy”. However, the BMI is not an accurate health measure.
Jennifer Rollin, eating disorder therapist and owner of The Eating Disorder Center said, “Body mass index charts were created about 200 years ago by Lambert Quetelet, a mathematician, not a physician, as a way to categorize people for his research and were never meant to be an indicator of health”. Jennifer went on to add, “In the 1990’s a bunch of Americans went to bed and woke up 'overweight' (this is a diet-culture term and not a recommended term to use to describe bodies). Their body size hadn’t changed, however against recommendations from The World Health Organization, an “obesity task force” that was funded by the makers of a weight-loss drug, decided to lower the BMI”.
The makers of the weight-loss drug profited greatly from this.
Myth #2: Healthy behaviors are all about eating and exercising a certain way.
FACT: True health considers that individuals vary in their ability, resources, and priorities and that each individual will have different practices that support overall well-being.
Health is more than just your physical health.
Health behaviors include individual actions that promote emotional health, spiritual health, relational health, financial health, professional health, and mental health.
Being healthy means you engage in different behaviors each day that allows you to complete your daily tasks in a balanced manner.
Myth #3: What we eat, how we look, and how we move our bodies determines value and worth.
FACT: Weight, diet, and exercise are not measures of health or worth. In fact socioeconomic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, dis/ability, and other factors contribute to access to cultural “health practices”.
We are all different, health looks different for everyone, and the goal is to learn how you can practice health in a way that supports your individual wants and needs.
Myth #4: Eating certain foods is healthy.
FACT: Diets are all about weight management and contribute to weight stigma. Nutritional needs are individual.
Flexible eating is healthy eating. It is OK if food can help you soothe emotional upset because food is meant to be enjoyed. Pay attention to hunger cues and satiety cues (satiety is feeling satisfied after eating). The goal is not to control weight with a diet because this does not include individual nutritional needs, rather the goal of health is to eat foods that promote your overall wellness. Wellness is about meeting your emotional, physical, mental, and social needs. This means it is OK to eat food to feel connected to others because social connection is healthy.
Myth #5: Exercise is necessary to be healthy.
FACT: Not everybody can move in the way that diet culture insists. Not everyone enjoys moving their body in the way that diet culture insists. Being healthy is about moving your body in a way that is enjoyable, when one is willing to move their body. In other words you do not have to workout to have worth and value.
Healthy body movement is different for every individual, and your body movement needs can vary day-to-day. One day you may get pleasure from a yoga session, but the next get pleasure from lying on the floor.
Diet culture has told us that one solution to health fits all, but this simply is not the case. You can learn to be healthy by learning to pay attention to your body and eating foods that make you feel good physically, emotionally, and mentally. You can be healthy by finding ways to move your body that are enjoyable and comforting.
Your worth and value is not determined by weight, the food you eat, or how you move your body. Your health is also not determined in this way.
Health is about learning to advocate for yourself, setting boundaries with loved ones, giving your body the energy it needs, eating foods that make you happy and smile, and learning ways to calm your mind and soul.
For more on Health At Every Size ® visit the Association For Size Diversity And Health at www.sizediversityandhealth.org.
About The Author: Stephanie Waitt
Dr. Stephanie Waitt resides in Sherman, TX.
Stephanie is a therapist that specializes in treating eating disorders and is a body image, self-esteem, and eating disorder recovery coach. She works with young adults and teens to recover from disordered eating and find confidence and happiness. Stephanie is dedicated to helping individuals receive access to eating disorder treatment. She believes that everyone deserves quality and specialized treatment.
She is passionate about eating disorder awareness, dogs, and Wonder Woman. You can find her spending time with her husband visiting comic book stores or a craft brewery, and hanging out with her beloved Golden Retriever Prince Fenway and Corgi Lord Odin.
You can learn more about Stephanie at www.texomaspecialtycounseling.com.