Do you feel surrounded by messages telling you to lose weight? That your happiness, healthiness and self-worth are attributed to your body size? Have you ever wondered why obtaining health is glorified as weight loss and how useful it is to strive to shed your body of kilograms?
It is not true that being a lower weight will make us healthier and happier. Just as it is not true that being a higher weight makes us unhealthy or unhappy. In contrast, this societal pressure to shrink our body size actually has harmful effects on our health and, overtime, can actually lead to weight gain (1, 2).
Weight is a side effect of our behaviours, genetics and socioeconomic status.
Weight is complex and health is multifaceted. To improve our health, we need to forget about focusing on our body size and start focusing on the factors that make us healthy, both physically and psychologically. Our weight will naturally settle where it feels best.
So ditch the scales, un-follow those diet-related instagram profiles and focus on your health and well-being.
1. Trust your body
There’s no better guide to what your body needs, than your body. We are born with an innate ability that guides us to seek food and fluids. However, years of diet-related messages create a disconnect with our body’s natural cues. Let-go of external food rules and restrictions to reconnect with your body’s hunger, fullness and emotional needs.
2. Have a positive relationship with food
Having a good relationship to food includes being flexible and accepting of all foods. All foods play a part in a healthy lifestyle, whether it is nourishment, cultural connection, social events or emotional support. As scary as it sounds, allowing ourselves the freedom to eat whatever we want, leads to a greater variety of nutritious foods being consumed, greater enjoyment of food and less overeating (3).
3. Colour your plate with fruits and Veg
Fruits and veggies are packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients to keep our body functioning at its best. The different colours represent all the different nutrients they provide. They can reduce your risk of chronic disease, reduce your risk of some cancers and help keep your bowels happy. Creating a colourful and tasty plate is easier than it seems.
4. Move for fun
Move for fun, for exploring, for socialising and for how good it makes you feel. When we find movement we enjoy, we want to move our body. Whether it is joining a walking group, a jog through the park, social sports, hiking, dancing, yoga or anything else you enjoy that gets your body moving. Do it for your physical and psychological health, not your weight.
5. Find more incidental activity
Enjoying moving but wish you had more time to fit it in? Incorporating movement into your routine provides even more benefits of moving. Can you walk to the station rather than taking the bus? Take the stairs rather than the lift? Go for a quick walk in your lunch break? Park the car further away? Think of activity as an opportunity to move your body in a way that makes you feel good and improves your strength
6. Prioritise sleep
Just as important as moving your body is resting your body! Sleep gives our brain the chance to declutter so we can perform better during the day. A lack of sleep not only makes us feel lousy but is shown to affect our appetite and eating habits through changes to our hormones (4). Developing a relaxing bedtime routine helps to prepare our body for sleep. Check out some ideas for simple evening habits to aid a good night’s rest.
7. Drink more water
Water is needed to keep our bowels moving, flush out waste, support our immune system, keep our skin hydrated, control our temperature and much more. Not drinking enough can make us feel pretty lousy. Keeping water handy throughout the day can help us feel great, be active and reduce the amount of sugary drinks we lean towards. Find a water bottle you enjoy drinking from and keep it within reach.
8. Cut back on alcohol
Excessive alcohol consumption has negative short and long term effects on health. From increased risk of several cancers, damage to our organs and interrupting our sleep. Aim to be mindful with your alcohol consumption and don’t be afraid to order a non-alcoholic drink at the bar. Check out some alcohol-free summer drink ideas!
9. Stop smoking
Smoking has strong links to many cancers, lung disease and heart disease and quitting will reduce your risk of poor health. There are many support services to aid giving up cigarettes if you need some guidance.
10. Accept your body how it is now
People who love and accept their bodies are more likely to take better care of them. Accepting your body how it is now can help to keep your focus on the factors that you can control. Write a list of the things you like about your body including what it allows you to do.
Where to start?
- Hide the scales or get rid of them completely. Make a list of the non-weight focused changes that will improve your physical and psychological health.
- Trying to change too much is overwhelming. Instead, pick one new change each week to focus on and write it down.
- Go easy on yourself. Take a step back and see your behaviours and emotions with a sense of curiosity rather than judgement.
- Remember, you are not trying to be perfect (no one is!) you’re just finding some time to focus on your well-being.
Are you wanting to escape dieting with the stress, loss of control and shame it brings? Or simply want to learn more about weight stigma?
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- Puhl, Phelan, Nadglowski, Kyle (2016) Overcoming Weight Bias in the Management of Patients With Diabetes and Obesity
- Puhl, Quinn, Weisz, Suh (2017) The role of stigma in Weight loss maintenance among US adults
- Tylka (2006) Development and psychometric evaluation of a measure of intuitive eating
- Golem, Martin-Biggers, Koenings, Davis, Byrd-Bredbenner (2014) An Integrative Review of Sleep for Nutrition Professionals