Does weight matter as much as we think it does? Is endlessly striving for a lower number on the scale actually hurting our overall health? Rebekah Fedrowitz examines the difference between weight loss and the pursuit of good health and helps us put our fixation with pounds in its proper place.
Hypothetically,” I posed to my client, “If you could feel better but it meant you gained let’s say five to ten pounds, how would you feel about that?”
Silence hung in the air for an uncomfortable moment after I asked this seemingly uncomplicated, yet surprisingly loaded question. She wanted to improve her health but was worried about the potential of gaining the weight she always worked so hard to keep off. While most women would immediately claim that health is more important than weight, the answer isn’t always so simple.
My client hesitated before giving an answer that was real, honest, and representative of what so many women feel.
“I mean…I don’t see why I can’t feel better and stay the way I am.”
What the World Says
We are bombarded by so many mixed messages about weight and health. It’s a predominantly taught rule that lower body weight and good health are synonymous. And many health professionals will use weight or body mass as a measure of health. While the pressures to be thin have shifted to some degree in recent years, there are still stigmas that being heavier implies a lack of care for one’s health. The difficulty here is that this leads to making weight a primary—if not the primary—goal. Time and time again, I witness women whose health is inadvertently sacrificed for the pursuit of that goal.
So, if asked to choose between weight and health, many of us would struggle to separate the two. We would have a hard time truly choosing health as the priority.
I say all of this without judgement. But rather with empathy and understanding. I’m no stranger to wrestling with my weight. And I spent years on a misguided pursuit of “health,” gauging my success by the number on the scale or the size of my jeans.
What the Truth Is
I did what I thought was right—what I was taught was right. And I was not only praised for my efforts, but was also told to “keep going” when I wasn’t seeing the results I expected. Even today, while weight is no longer at the forefront of my mind, those all-too familiar feelings of weight—or cellulite or any other so-called “imperfection” about my body—will periodically resurface. I have to fight to recenter myself with the truth.
The truth is this: Weight is not the determinant of my health or my worth. And that truth is one I wish every woman knew and understood.
Our personal truths are based on what we understand. And what we understand is what we’ve been taught. We’re taught in many ways, from spoken word and instruction to observation and emotion.
Maybe we are told we need to cut back on calories, or we’re complimented for losing five pounds, or we see how someone else appears to feel after losing weight. These lessons lead to beliefs that become so deeply ingrained in us that it can be hard to break free from the misconceptions.
But break free, we must.
To liberate yourself from the lies and re-write the truth, begin with these two important principles:
1. Weight challenges are never the problem, they are always a symptom
They are a sign that something is out of balance. Whether that’s as simple as a poor diet or something more complex, like hormonal imbalances, digestive problems, or another underlying health issue. Discovering and addressing the root issue is the key to achieving better health, which in the end is the only way to overcome weight challenges.
2. You are not your weight
You are beautiful, strong, and capable exactly as you are. And changing your weight will not alter your value. You are loved by Jesus. He is the one who determines your worth and identity.
Your weight is not the problem or the end goal. But it’s also not something that should be ignored.
Many times, I see dramatic extremes between the need to fix imbalanced weight or complacently accepting–sometimes to the point of celebrating–weight without regard to health. But ultimately, as long as we focus on weight in either extreme, it still has more control than we should be giving it.
Putting Weight In Its Proper Place
If we allow it, our weight is something we can pay attention to as a clue. It can be a signal of greater issues without assigning leadership to it. It can show us when we’ve been eating too much sugar, if our thyroid function is out of balance, or if food sensitivities are causing inflammation. This allows us to address and support our health in the ways that really matter.
When we remove the constant focus on weight, we free ourselves to live healthy lives in a more natural, less stressful way.
We free ourselves from gimmicky tactics, like wearing tight clothes so we feel uncomfortable when we gain a pound, weighing ourselves every day, or going on an extra long run to “earn” dessert.
We free ourselves from fearing the upcoming bathing suit season or the potential backlash of a nice dinner out.
Instead of degrading tactics and lies that leave us feeling constantly trapped to manage our weight, we can learn to love and nourish our bodies. We can ebb and flow with life, not dreading the occasional shift in the scales. We can understand our body will naturally change some days based on anything from drinking an extra glass of water to the timing of our menstrual cycles.
I believe it’s time for women to break free and discover the health we really want. The kind of health that means plenty of energy, balanced cravings, clear skin, stable moods, quality sleep, and since we’re talking about it, balanced weight that is steady and surprisingly effortless.
This may seem like fiction or the things fairytales are made of. But it’s not. It’s very possible, and I believe it’s the kind of health God created us to experience. But first we have to let go of our fixation with weight.
I will leave you with a question to consider for yourself. When you separate weight and health, realizing they are not one and the same, which is really the most important to you right now?
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