Why Body Positivity is Crucial for Health
The way we feel about our bodies matters. In fact, feeling content in our own skin might actually be a more important indicator for overall health than the number on the scale. How we think about and perceive our bodies is another important factor to consider as we make efforts to improve our overall health.
Some people think that feeling happy and content in your skin indicates that you are okay with an unhealthy body or that you’ve given up; on the contrary, health starts at every size. Health can feel like this elusive thing that you can never quite find. It isn’t a magical destination but a journey each of us is navigating and negotiating. And, feeling happy and content in your own skin is something all of us can work on regardless of body size.
There are many myths about weight, body image and health. Breaking free of these misunderstandings can clear the path to a healthful, happy life that is right for you individually—mentally and physically. The following is a list of health myths and how you might consider re-framing your health paradigm.
MYTH: Motivation only comes to people who get “fed up” enough with their appearance to want to change.
FACT: Motivation for exercise and healthy eating can stem from a sense of love for your body instead of hate. People who feel better about their bodies tend to take better care of them. People who accept and are overall positive about their bodies tend to exercise more and even tend to eat an overall healthier diet. You don’t need to loathe yourself to move toward a healthy lifestyle; in fact, adopting a sense of self-love and acceptance is more likely to help you to continue moving your body.
MYTH: Being overweight is unhealthy.
FACT: A recent review of over 100 studies surrounding weight and mortality risk concluded that being in the overweight BMI category is associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality relative to normal weight BMI category. So, why trust the BMI scale as a life-or-death matter? Find the right weight for you by ditching dieting and eating wholesome, well-balanced foods. It’s important to recognize that there are true flaws with body mass index as a measurement of health.
MYTH: Dieting is the answer to weight struggles.
FACT: Yo-yo dieting and weight cycling have been associated with greater incidence of diabetes, hypertension, insulin sensitivity and mortality. The on-again off-again nature of diets is not helpful long-term and likely does more harm than good.
MYTH: As long as you try hard enough, anyone can lose the amount of weight he/she wants to lose.
FACT: Genetics play a large role in the way our bodies react and adapt to healthy eating efforts and exercise. Some are naturally slim and others are naturally more muscular—body shapes and sizes vary. Understanding your own genetic endowment is an important step in being more positive about your body. The genetic diversity that bodies come in is beautiful and something to appreciate and honor rather than to loathe and attempt to manipulate.
MYTH: Adopting a Health At Every Size (HAES) approach won’t really lead to improvements in weight, physical health or mental health.
FACT: There is support from multiple randomized controlled studies that shows statistically significant improvement in physiological measures (blood pressure, blood lipids), health behaviors, and an improvement in mood, self-esteem and body image with adopting a HAES approach. You can see real improvements in overall mental and physical health by focusing on health at the size you are now and by embracing wellbeing rather than weight loss at all costs.
Stop the constant cycle of body loathing, dieting, restricting, giving up, trying again, weight gain, weight loss, etc. This is not healthy for your body, mind, or soul.
If you are struggling with body image or food, recognize that your health is deeper than what you eat and how you exercise. Consider how you might be able to adopt an approach to health in the here and now—exactly as you are.
Health isn’t a destination. It’s a journey. Focus on the whole picture of your health and don’t forget about taking care of yourself mentally. Health isn’t something you magically get to when you’re a certain weight—it starts right now wherever you may be. Health can be realized and accomplished at any size.
This article originally appeared on KSL.com.