Is overweight the new healthy? The answer might surprise you.
Let’s start with the definition of healthy. How do you define healthy?
There are many aspects of health – there is body size (BMI, body fat) or metabolic health (lab results) or cardiovascular health (resting heart rate, ability to perform daily living tasks or purposeful exercise) or even emotional and spiritual health (do the standards you hold yourself to for your physical health damage your emotional health?). Or is it based on quality of life? Or the characteristics of those who live the longest?
(Spoiler alert: We are finding that a BMI in the “overweight” range has a lower mortality rate than those in the “normal” weight range).
So, I ask: how should we define health? The good news is that you get to define it based on what is important to you and I’d recommend you do it in collaboration with a physician.
I can tell you that people choose physical appearance over their emotional health a lot. One thing most people have in common when they walk in the door to meet with an RD is that their emotional health has taken a hit regardless of their body size. It seems very few people can find peace with their bodies – even those who appear “fit” or “healthy” to others.
This concerns me.
I used to be there too and I still some days struggle with self-acceptance and self-love (stupid #fitspo memes). It’s no secret that I carry a few extra pounds. Should you consider me proof that knowing what to do to get to a socially desirable weight and actually doing it are two different things? Or should you perhaps consider that I am happy and healthy with a few extra pounds? Could this be true?!?!
In 2007, I was “overweight” by the numbers and I fought with my body and had low body-acceptance. My hips were too big, my belly isn’t flat, my thighs are so big when I sit down… all those things we let ourselves say in our heads when we don’t love ourselves as we are. I had a heart attack. I felt my body had let me down even more… and then I realized that this body that I hated – big belly, hips, thighs, and all – had actually carried me through and I survived that heart attack. Just that simple realization led to a big mind shift and changed those thoughts in my head to appreciation and gratitude for this body that I was lucky enough to still have!
Before you go screaming that being overweight is why I had a heart attack – let me stop you. I was a smoker for decades, I worked a stressful job, and I have a strong family history. Most health conditions (and the supposed “obesity epidemic”) are not as simple as people believe. These things have multiple factors that lead to these outcomes. Being thin would not have prevented my heart attack.
I share all this to lead you into considering your HEALTH over your APPEARANCE. I encourage you to think a little deeper than the eat-less-move-more movement. Check out HAES (Health at Every Size), read up on new studies that might indicate a coming shift in beliefs (just one of many studies here: BMI 27: The New Normal?), and start loving yourself first.
Change your body or don’t – we are all works in progress – but please start from a place of self-love and body-acceptance. Look forward to more information on this topic in the future.