Healthy Does Not Equal Skinny

There is a message I have been hearing lately: healthy comes in all shapes and sizes.  We are seeing more realistic photos in the media of all body types, although there is still a long way to go to more fully represent what people actually look like.  The good news is there is a discussion out there that includes the idea that healthy does not equal skinny.

Often when people think of getting healthier, one of the thoughts that comes to mind is losing weight.  Weight loss can be reasonable goal, especially in society today where many people are sedentary and overweight.  However, it should be only one of a list of goals with the overall outcome of a healthier you.  Other "get healthy" goals on the list could include: improved posture, increased endurance, build strength in order to participate in meaningful activities, reduce pain, decrease stress, etc.  

Starting a fitness program to work toward a healthy body has many desirable outcomes, among them is stronger muscles. As muscles become toned and stronger, body composition changes. Body composition is a way of measuring the amount of fat vs. lean muscle in the body.  When embarking on a fitness program, we get stronger and more of our body composition is taken up by muscle.  At the same time, fat decreases and we look overall more toned.  This may not be reflected by any change on the scale.  Muscle is more compact than fat, so although we notice changes and clothes fit better, body weight can stay the same, or change less than we expect. 

Therefore, don't focus on the scale as the ultimate measure of how your fitness program is progressing.  Check in to how you feel and how you look.  Keeping a journal of parameters such as energy level, mood, and ability to perform enjoyed activities can be a better guideline.  

Most people, women and men, can think of a time when we became obsessed with the number on our bathroom scale.  Our body weight naturally fluctuates during the day, based on when we eat, drink, eliminate, exercise, and retain water.  Normal fluctuations of 1-5 lbs can occur depending on when you weigh yourself.  So does it make sense to step on the scale everyday, and base your emotional status on that number?  Feeling great and confident vs. down and self-conscious based a flucuation of a few pounds?  Mental health is as important an aspect of being healthy as your physical condition.  Studies show that practices such as meditation and daily gratitude have measurable positive affects on our overall health.  Therefore obsession with weight causing an emotional roller coaster cannot be considered healthy.  

Take a moment to write a list of health related goals.  Weight loss may be one of these goals, but make sure there is a list of several other items including mental health parameters such as journalling daily gratitudes, getting out and appreciating nature, or using deep breathing as a stress reducing technique.  Health equates with happiness.  Check in daily on the happiness scale.