What Does Health Mean To YOU?
Our society has ingrained into our minds that being smaller is better and weight loss equals health, when in fact there are SOOO many other indicators to good health. So - I ask you all - what does health mean to YOU?
**Quick important side note before we get started: weight IS NOT a vital sign or an indicator of health! There are many many ways for us to prioritize our health (physical, mental, social, etc) without focusing on our weight or body size.
What are REAL indicators of health?
Mental Health: This is occasionally put on the back burner, but it is extremely important that our mental health is in check. Living with depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, and other mental illnesses can be a hardship if not taken care of. Everyone has a different way of showing themselves compassion and kindness and performing acts of self-care to improve mental health (check out my blog post for some ideas). JUST SAYING it is OK to ask for help if you need it. It can be really tough to feel and process the mental gymnastics that goes on in our heads every day, despite doing “all the right things.” Approaching a professional to aid with your mental and emotional health is an important (and scary) step to improve mental health.
Positive Relationship With Yourself: Oh this is a big one! There are so many layers to having a positive relationship with yourself. Sometimes all we need is a neutral and respectful relationship with ourselves, when a positive one is tough. It is so hard to not compare ourselves to our friends, co-workers, family members, and anyone on the internet. It’s challenging to not look in the mirror and knit-pick what we don’t like about our bodies. Here are some ways we can start to move toward body neutrality and understand why we are comparing ourselves to others.
Look in the mirror and say (out loud) one thing you like, are proud of, or appreciate about yourself. It can be inside (mental, intrinsic, emotional, etc) or outside (physical, external, etc) qualities. A little bit of self-complimenting and self-love can go a long way! This is also helpful when around others - lifting other people’s spirits and saying positive things about them can also help us feel good about ourselves - it’s a win win!
Rather than comparing, let’s think - why are we comparing ourselves to this person in the first place? It is completely normal to step into the comparison game, but it can (and most likely will) lead to a false sense of self-worth and self-trust. (Click that link to read a super amazing blog post by Tiffany Roe "6 Ways to Combat Comparison) YOU ARE ENOUGH AS YOU ARE! Let's start reframing that negative self-talk into kind, compassionate, neutral, or respectful thoughts.
Celebrate anything and everything you accomplished, big or small. It might be silly to applaud yourself that you got out of bed, brushed your teeth, took a shower, ate breakfast, etc, but sometimes, we need these celebrations to keep our spirits up! The little things (even though usually, not as little as we think), are just as important, if not more important, to praise and celebrate than the big things.
Energy Levels: Do you ever feel sluggish during the day? Experience trouble concentrating and feeling present? Having enough energy is essential! Energy helps us perform better in school, work, and ALL daily activities. What are the culprits of low energy levels?
Not eating enough: Bold, highlight, italicize - whatever you have to do to remember this one!! It’s upsetting that society thinks that eating less and taking up less space is a vision of health. But guess what!? Not providing your body enough fuel is a recipe for disaster - lower creativity levels, decreased attention span, not enough energy to spend time with friends and family, feeling sleepy all the time - the list goes on and on! FOOD IS IMPORTANT FOR MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH - say it to yourself over and over again.
Getting enough sleep (in addition to enough food) is also super duper important to improve energy levels. Let’s be real here... Do you sleep enough? It may be fun to stay up late, or you may not have a choice (taking care of your family, finishing work, completing a project, fitting in alone time, etc). But a lack of sleep on a consistent basis is not doing us any good! Symptoms of sleep deprivation can include a weakened immune system and can affect your emotional and mental state. The National Sleep Foundation recommends around 7-9 hours of sleep a night. I acknowledge and validate that many of us are busy with a lot to balance, but I challenge you to prioritize sleep at least once a week to recharge.
Lab Results: Getting a yearly physical from your primary care physician is not only a form of self-care but also a concrete, data driven way to assess health. Reviewing your lab values with your doctor and registered dietitian is a way to set evidence based health goals (unlike focusing on weight or BMI…) and help you practice principle number 10 - Gentle Nutrition. Research has shown that certain foods promote health and may prevent certain diseases - choosing these foods in the name of health rather than diet culture or intentional weight loss, is a way to practice gentle nutrition while working towards health goals - like improving lab results (check out this Instagram post).
Physical Activity: Ahh, good old principle number 9 from Intuitive Eating - “Exercise - Feel the Difference.” Ask yourself - what is your motivation to exercise? Do you enjoy the movement you are doing? Practicing intuitive eating not only improves your relationship with food, but also with exercise. Movement should be a form of self-care - something that improves energy levels, reduces stress or anxiety, boosts immune function, and is overall something fun that you enjoy doing! Find those activities, do them with friends, and don’t forget about those rest days also.
Ok woah - if you have gotten this far, thank you! This was a jam packed blog post!!
These are just a few ways to assess if YOU believe YOUR health is in check! The next time you think you’re unhealthy just because you don’t look a certain way, come back to this blog post to remind yourself that there are more indicators of good health!
Outside appearances don’t say a whole lot about our health. There are so many more things going on in our complicated bodies. The next time you are assessing your personal health (mental and physical), try to look inward and consider the things that matter! And repeat after me - weight is not a vital sign, BMI is not an indicator of health, you do not have to take up less space to be healthy!!
Looking for someone to chat with about health? Hi there! I am here to listen and provide a safe and supportive space for discussion. Feel free to schedule a free discovery call to learn how we can work together.