Weight Vs. Health: Do you need to change your body?

This is a hot topic.

With the “Health at Every Size” (HAES) and similar movements going through the fitness industry it can be tricky to know how to feel about our size, weight loss and wanting to improve/change how we look physically.

What I hope to do with this article is shed some light on the fact although it’s difficult to emotionally unlink how we look physically with how we feel about ourselves as a human being, we should attempt and work on separating the two.

I think what some people currently are misinterpreting is that body fat percentage is an objective medical metric. Due to this, there is an ideal range to be in. Higher is not better. Lower is not better. The healthy range is better/best.

Really it’s not about weight or size, it’s really all about body fat percentage. High and low body fat percentages carry health risks whether we like it or not.

But it’s important to distinguish:

High bodyweight can be an indicator of high body fat percentage, but this may not be true.

Normal bodyweight can be an indicator of normal body fat percentage, but this also may not be true.

Now for the part that’s easier said than done.

Being told you have a high or low body fat percentage by your doctor does not have any reflection on you as a person. Go read that again and soak it in. It does not mean you are worth more or less than someone else. Just like you having Chron’s or Diabetes or High Blood Pressure don’t have any reflection on you as a friend, mother or human being.

It’s also important to make the distinction that having extra body fat or a high body fat percentage does not mean a person cannot be fit, in shape or incredibly strong.

However, our body image is so linked with our self image, that being told we are overweight or underweight can bring up a lot of feelings. It’s not easy, but it is our job to work on our relationship with ourselves in these times, while also working on our health.

This is when it’s important to point out that if you don’t like yourself at 100 pounds overweight, you won’t automatically like yourself at 50 pounds overweight or at the appropriate bodyweight for your height.

We also need to remember that despite what society tells us, a medically healthy body fat percentage range exists. And it’s not the less the better. It’s a range and being above or below can be a predictor of negative health outcomes.

Hopefully this goes without saying, but “fat shaming” should not be a thing and is never okay. Really shaming in general. Think what you want in your head, I suppose, but shaming someone about being overweight, underweight, having acne or anything about their appearance like this is not okay and shows much more about the person doing the shaming than their target.

I think the “health at any size” movement has great intentions, but is just a little off-base. I think “self-love at any size” or “self-acceptance at any size” or “healthy behaviors exist at any size” would hit the mark a little better. You can love yourself and accept yourself at any size, but still be on a journey toward better health.

No one, at any size, is perfect. I definitely could eat less processed foods, do more cardio and eat more healthy fats to improve my health. I could listen better, be less passive aggressive when I’m angry and volunteer more to be a better person. Improving our health and improving our self require difference behaviors and have different outcomes.

It’s important to identify our own unhealthy behaviors and commit to working on them because we love and value ourselves. We must also work on changing our language to improve our relationship ourselves and food (ex. stop saying that if we eat a whole pizza, we are “being bad”).

What do you think about all this? It’s a touchy subject and I hope I handled it delicately while also acknowledging some important points from a health and fitness perspective. But I’m also open to things I left out or don’t give enough merit to!

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