Sunday, January 24, 2016

Being Skinny is Not the Only Reason

Hello! I hope your weekend is weekendish.  It's a big couple of days for me. I'm finishing off, and submitting, my ethics application for my university research project. Therefore, this post is going to be a 'brain dump' piece of randomness. Luckily for you, there is something on my mind.

But first, check out this guy. When I left for work, Mog climbed in to my spot under the covers, and when I got home, he was still there, getting toasty. Cute huh? Cats sure know how to nap.

What I'm blogging about today is something that's been growing in my consciousness over the past few years. And it's this: I have realised that in order to be truly healthy, you have to stop focusing on the way you look as the main outcome.

It's not our fault that we use body size as an indicator that we are doing the right thing. You can't open a magazine or look on Facebook without being smacked in the eyeballs by some 'health advice' that is supposed to make you sleek. Health and skinnyness have become conflated to the degree that any move toward improving your nutrition or getting fitter is supposed to make you thinner. If it doesn't, it's not worth doing, right?

No. Really, it's time for this idea to dieeeee. It is fine to have an aesthetic goal when it comes to organising your lifestyle, but, in my experience, if looking a certain way is the primary goal, that can lead to misery.

This is me today, about 5 minutes ago. I am 5 ft 3, 58kg (~128lbs), 44 years old. I'd call that... 'normal'.  However, I'm 5kg heavier than a couple of years ago, because in Sept 2014 I stopped low-carbing. I started eating more plant foods and stopped stressing out. Seriously, that's all it took.

At first I was upset about the weight gain, but over a few months I realised that my main issue was other people's reactions, and my own perception that as a Nutritionist, I should be superthin. I considered tweaking my diet and exercise to lose the weight, but when in came down to it, I just couldn't find any good reasons to do more than I already am. 

I'm healthy*, I can maintain this weight eating something like 2500 calories a day (low carbing I was beginning to gain weight on 1500 calories and suspect I was slowly trashing my thyroid function, or perhaps losing the ability to add?), my friends still want to hang out, my partner still thinks I'm hot, my nieces and nephews think I'm cooler than I actually am, and the people that make comments (even "helpful" ones like: 'oh, I'm sure you'll lose it again') need a lesson in what matters. I feel at peace with food. If I'm hungry, I eat. Like, food, not bubbly water. If I'm not hungry, food doesn't cross my mind. I've lost 2kg naturally in the last 6 months, so perhaps I'll settle at a lower weight, but who knows? I actually have other things to think about.

Being physically and mentally healthy is more important than being a small size.  Note: I don't think there is anything wrong with tweaking your diet and exercise to lose a bit of jiggle, but losing weight shouldn't be your only motive to look after yourself. Your body is not a painting. It has to do stuff, now and in the future.

For example, one thing that's very motivating to me, is the realisation that one day we will all be old. If your reason for eating veges is to be young and pretty, what's going to keep you motivated when you have grey hair and wrinkles? Being a healthy old person requires a few things, including but not limited to:

* Strong bones
* A functioning brain
* Muscle tone
* Good endocrine health
* Cardiovascular health
* A sense of humour

All of these things require long-term adequate intake of nutrient-dense foods and consistent attention to some form of body movement. Don't go having a hip fracture in your 70's because you starved away your peak bone mass in your 20's. How silly would that make you feel? Happily, living a healthy life will keep the bod running, and likely also land you eventually in a weight range that looks, well, 'healthy'. 

Focusing on weight, being 'willing to do anything' to be thinner, can lead to unhealthy behaviours and food obsession. I'm sure everyone reading here has experienced that a singular focus on weight can lead to obsession and general food weirdness. Those of us that have worked as PT's, nutritionists or dietitians will know that most people want fast weightloss, and usually turn up practically begging to be issued a diet plan of boiled chicken and broccoli. The 'size before health' mindset can also show up in more subtle ways. One of my unhealthiest behaviours has, at times, been using alcohol as my 'carb source' at dinner (a Zone diet trick). Wine does not make me gain weight, BUT, nightly consumption of it does a number on my mood and ability to sleep well. Refining your eating down to things that make the scale move downward can result in some of the strangest habits.

Also, weirdly, aligning your identity too closely to the ups and downs of the scale can even lead to eventual weight gain. What you focus on, grows, right? Focus on healthy behaviours**. This might require a little attention to your diet, you might need to sort out some food sensitivities or get some help if you've gotten into a state (say, you are bingeing), but it really shouldn't be a stress. Just be healthy, have hobbies, live your life. The way you look is a side-effect of the way you live. I promise, if you are as healthy as you can be, your appearance, and the way you feel, will reflect that level of care.

**Peace Out**

* I do still have ITP. I I'll write about that soon.
** 'Healthy behaviours, not 'health''. That's an important discussion for another day. Some people aren't motivated by health at all, but might be healthy for the sake of, for example, their kids, or because their social group is mountain bikers. 


  1. Nice one Sara, so sensible and wise for one so young :-). You look great!

    1. Ahaha, so do you! every time I see you, I'm like, damn, I need to try harder.


I love to hear from you! Tell me what's in your brain, your heart or your dinner plate :D.