When I was seven years old, my dad and stepmother bought me my very own pizza for my birthday meal. Apparently personal pan pizzas were a new thing at the restaurant that we went to. I was so happy to have my own pizza that I cried tears of joy. Prior to that age my mom could find me laying in our summer garden eating pear tomatoes fresh off the vine. Clearly I had a love affair with tomatoes. I still do. So naturally my passion for cooking and eating SCRUMPTIOUS food is primarily what influenced me to go back to school in my thirties to become a Registered Dietitian. Yep. The power of deliciousness outweighed the sacrifices that needed to be made to conquer classes like organic chemistry and biochemistry - all of which I had previously avoided when I obtained my first degree in Spanish. But while I loved the bold flavors in the meals that I was preparing and devouring, I eventually realized that I needed to develop a healthier relationship with food and my body.
Now I'm a weight-inclusive dietitian and a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. Meaning that I help bring the joy back into eating by assisting my clients with developing a healthy relationship with food and their bodies. One of the ways that I do this is by working with clients on implementing the ten core principles of Intuitive Eating, which is such a powerful process. I have also just returned from having attended a FANTASTIC Body Image Workshop in Chicago - which was provided by two incredibly wise and talented dietitians, Marci Evans and Fiona Sutherland! So I really look forward to implementing even more tools to support my clients as we work together on body image healing!
While a lot of my work with clients revolves around food, I also encourage my clients to implement additional health-promoting behaviors - that feel right to them - for the sake of health versus weight loss. In my previous blog post, Health-Promoting Behaviors for Health Versus Weight Loss, I essentially expressed that the size of our body does not equal health, a variety of factors influence our wellness, that dieting doesn't work on a long-term basis for most people, and that we can empower our wellness at any size.
As promised, today I'm talking about some of the benefits that are associated with certain health-promoting behaviors. It's worth noting that many of the health-promoting behaviors that I've listed below can impact our eating patterns, food choices, and make it easier to implement a variety of Intuitive Eating principles. And whether someone is working with Intuitive Eating or not, health-promoting behaviors can empower our overall health. At any size. So taking this holistic - yet evidence-based Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size (HAES) approach to health - enables us to work towards enhancing our wellness from multiple angles. And make realistic, long-lasting changes that feel right to us.
Before I get to the benefits that are associated with the health-promoting behaviors below, it's really important to acknowledge that you are not obligated to work towards empowering your health. This is your life. And this is your body. And even if you would like to put more energy into your health, given that we're all going through different phases in life, some of the health-promoting behaviors that I've listed below may or may not feel right to you. And that's perfectly fine (This is simply information that I hope will be of help to someone).
For example, if you have recently injured your body due to over-exercising, then resting your body, truly evaluating what was behind the compulsive exercising, and healing the root cause would be a strong way to support your well-being/hopefully avoid repeating this unhealthy pattern in the future. Or if someone is currently grieving a loss, maybe taking a shower, getting dressed, and making it through the day is the main focus right now. Or if you believe that you might be living with an eating disorder, dedicating your energy to talking to a health professional who specializes in eating disorders - and receiving treatment - would be an extremely powerful way to work towards reclaiming your life and wellness (The National Helpline for the National Eating Disorders Association is 1-800-931-2237). This type of self-awareness is so powerful! The health-promoting behaviors that I've listed below are simply some examples of different ways to empower your well-being - without focusing on a scale - if you are wanting to prioritize your health right now.
HEALTH-PROMOTING BEHAVIORS' BENEFITS
According to Harvard Women's Health Watch, in addition to bringing us some serious JOY, having good relationships is as positive for our health as obtaining a proper amount of sleep, eating well-balanced meals, and refraining from smoking. Having uplifting relationships may in fact increase our lifespan. One reason for this is that having strong and positive relationships with others helps decrease our stress levels. So why not free up some of the time that has been dedicated to a scale and do something fun with someone who makes your heart smile! Or gradually work towards creating new and uplifting relationships!
We know that chronic stress can cause our bodies to be more vulnerable to illness, in addition to making it more difficult to obtain adequate rest. But long-term stress may also play a role in the development of hypertension, heart challenges, and diabetes - in addition to negatively impacting our mental health (Which is such a big part of wellness). We also know that finding ways to reduce our stress levels can empower our well-being. One thing that I really love about meditating is that I can meditate anywhere and feel better throughout the day. Meditating doesn't require being at the top of a mountain with a perfect view - and not having any responsibilities for the day (Although that does sound wonderful). If you're interested in exploring meditation more, you could check out a meditation class or some meditation phone apps. Yoga - among many things - is another great way to reduce reduce our stress levels. And like meditation, it may also help promote better digestion. But there are so many different ways to decompress. I can feel my shoulders dropping just thinking about it!
I know. It can feel almost impossible to obtain enough sleep when life is so busy. Before I go any further, I'll just add that I got very little sleep throughout my intense dietetic internship. And Colin and I just recently started obtaining the recommended 7+ hours of sleep per day for adults ages 18-60 . What a difference it makes though! Before I share the positive benefits that are associated with adequate sleep, I want to mention that inadequate sleep lowers our metabolic rate and increases our appetite, may contribute to the development of heart disease and diabetes (Can cause insulin resistance, which over time can lead to type 2 diabetes), and may worsen A1C levels in individuals who are living with type 2 diabetes. On a positive note, a growing amount of research indicates that obtaining the proper amount of shuteye may promote better blood glucose levels in individuals who are living with type 2 diabetes. Not to mention that adequate sleep can help us manage our stress levels and feel more focused and energized. If you're interested, here are some tips for sleeping better. My wonderful fur babies who are featured below are the ultimate sleepers!
OBTAINING REGULAR MEDICAL CARE FOR PREVENTION AND WHEN NEEDED
As a whole, health practitioners work really hard to try to provide the best possible care to patients/clients. But I can't talk about this health-promoting behavior without acknowledging that the quality of this care is greatly reduced when weight stigma/weight bias occurs. There are people who are living in larger bodies who have expressed that they no longer make doctor's appointments due to the weight stigma that they have experienced. Which is so tragic. While I realize that I'm writing about this topic as someone who experiences thin privilege, I again recognize that weight stigma can harm a person - physically and mentally. It's an independent risk factor for chronic health conditions. Weight stigma can also lead to missing a diagnosis as a result of thinking that a thin-bodied person is "healthy." And it can result in a health practitioner not diagnosing a condition or treating a condition due to being distracted by a person's higher weight - and just suggesting weight loss. Which in certain cases can be life threatening (Plus in addition to the variety of physical and mental damage that is associated with weight stigma, most people are unable to maintain their weight loss, which leads to weight cycling - which is associated with worsened cardiovascular health and premature death). As I previously mentioned, it wasn't until I read the book, Intuitive Eating, that I came to the conclusion that I needed to heal my own issues with food and my body, because I had bought into diet culture. So I took off over a year from working with clients to do some internal housekeeping. And now I'm a non-diet, weight-inclusive dietitian who hopes to be an effective advocate for people who are living in larger bodies. So my point in sharing this is to say that as dietitians - or health professionals as a whole - when we realize that we have weight bias, we can do better. And heal it. And provide far more effective care to all patients. And do more to promote equality for all.
I know that this will not solve the problem, but if you're someone who thinks that you might be negatively affected by looking at the number on the scale at a doctor's office, you can stand backwards on the scale and ask that the number not be shared with you (As a patient you also have the right to decline being weighed). And if you're living in a larger body and go to a doctor's office with a health concern - and are just told to lose weight - you can always ask the health practitioner, "What kinds of health recommendations would be advisable for someone who is living in a smaller body with these symptoms?" Adding that you would like to focus on enhancing your health through a variety of strategies - versus your weight - might be helpful to express if that's what you're looking for. We all deserve quality care. If possible, staying on top of appointments with a doctor is a way to implement preventative care, and increase the chances of healing as well as possible if a chronic health condition develops. I will add that I just finished making a doctor's appointment that I was behind on. So one of my goals is to more consistently stay on top of this as well! This link offers some tips for choosing a doctor, while this link provides some questions to think about asking your doctor or nurse pertaining to health screenings/preventative care. And if you're looking for Health At Every Size resources, you can click here.
If your doctor has indicated that it's safe for you to obtain physical activity, focusing on moving your body in ways that bring you JOY and feel good to your body is one way to work towards empowering your health. Particularly when you move your body for the sake of health versus to lose weight. Many people who go on a diet solely exercise when they're dieting, and stop exercising when the diet comes to a screeching halt. In contrast, if you're moving your body for the sake of health, and focus on the fact that a certain physical activity brings you extra joy, promotes heart health, and energizes you, it can be far more motivating to participate in that physical activity. In addition to being a healthier mindset. Among its many benefits, obtaining physical activity can decrease the chances of developing different chronic health conditions, relieve stress, improve the ability to sleep well (Assuming we're not exercising right before we go to bed), assist with managing blood sugar levels, preserve lean muscle mass, promote brain and bone health, and enhance one's energy level and mood. It's worth noting that matching the level of the intensity of the exercise with your current level of physical fitness is important. And focusing on how you feel before, during, and after the physical activity is particularly helpful for figuring out which movements really help your body feel as well as possible - in addition to helping you feel extra happy, energized, and alert. And if you feel more joy when you hang out with some of your friends or family members while participating in a physical activity, this could be a great time to catch up! My husband and I have started taking more walks together lately and are really enjoying hearing about each other's day when we're out in nature and are not distracted by a computer or our cell phones.
One evening we were walking on a trail and discovered this free mini-library! We love the fact that people can just walk on this trail, check out a book, and return it when they're done. So we just never know what kinds of unexpected treasures we might discover when we do activities that we actually enjoy!
I hope that this information was helpful to some of you reading this! In my next blog post, I'll be writing about my recent adventure in Chicago! If you would like to work with me on developing a healthy relationship with food and your body, in addition to empowering your overall wellness, click here to learn more about my private one-on-one sessions. Happy eating!
DISCLAIMER: The information on this website, including the blog, is solely for informational and educational purposes. This information is NOT a substitute for individual, medical, or mental health advice. You alone are responsible for what you do with the information found on this website and blog.