What is a “healthy weight”?

I have to admit I was taken aback when I was named one of “Healthy Weight Week’s Top-35 Healthy Weight Blogs”.  I am actually aware of “Healthy Weight Week” from many years back.  I know that Francie Berg started “Healthy Weight Week” 25 years ago in an effort to change the dialog from weight (a number on a scale) to health (decidedly not a number on a scale).  This is part of Francie’s program which includes the annual “Slim Chance Awards” which chronicles some of the dumbest, most dangerous and least likely weight loss schemes of the year.

While I am firmly behind the notion of moving away from the number on the scale as an indicator of health, and I am deeply gleeful at the notion of poking fun at some of the most ridiculous diet schemes of the year (and the epic race to the bottom that THAT entails), I have to admit a fair amount of discomfort about putting the words “healthy” and “weight” together in any given sentence.  While I think the spirit of the week is a really great thing, the name of the event still seems to imply that there is a particular “healthy weight” for each person to be.  And I think that this notion is both simplistic and dangerous.

Because, you know what?  There is no magic number.  There is not a spot on the dial of the scale that, once attained, will make you immortal or even impervious to health problems or pain or sickness.  Even if you reach that number using Health At Every Size(R) techniques or intuitive eating or super fun physical activity plans.  Even if  you attain this place by deep meditation and perfect self-love (as if that even exists) and flowers and love and light.  There is no number on the scale that will make you perfectly happy or well-adjusted or even sane.  It’s just a number on the scale.  There is no perfect weight.

And there is no perfect health.  Nobody is in “perfect health”.  We’re all crumbling away–sometimes gradually and sometimes precipitously–towards our eventual demise.  I’m sorry to be a little bit morbid.  But I think that this notion of “perfect health” is something we need to put to bed right now.  I mean right this very minute.

There are many ways to define health.  Just as there are many ways to define Health At Every Size (R).  But I favor a definition that sees health as a continuum rather than a condition.  I think moving away from health is moving in a direction where we are less able to take advantage of our current physical condition to enjoy the things we love the most.  Moving towards health is living in a way that allows us to take greater advantage of our current physical condition and squeeze more of the things we love the most out of the remainder of our lives.  It doesn’t sound super sexy.  I sincerely doubt it will sell a lot of tennis shoes or create a great bumper sticker.  However, I think this definition of health allows everybody a spot at the table.  It doesn’t separate the haves from the have-nots.  It defines health in a way that can you can keep with you for your entire life.

This is particularly important in my work as a fitness instructor.  I work with many people who are coping with many levels of physical challenges.  From joint difficulties, to disease, to chronic pain conditions to plain old aging, many of my students and readers find it difficult to identify themselves as “healthy” as it is commonly understood.  And for many of my students, the notion of “perfect health” seems so remote that it might as well be another planet.  And this distance from the notion of “perfectly healthy” can be extremely demoralizing.  “How can I even start?” or “Why bother?” they ask.

And that’s why I choose to talk about health in terms of a continuum.  I tell them, “If we can do five minutes together today, we are going to ROCK those five minutes.  We are going to count it as a success and then we are going to do a booty dance of victory to celebrate!”  Because even though five minutes of exercise can’t move them to a “perfect weight” or “perfect health”,  it can move them towards a life that contains a little more energy and allows them to fit in a little more awesome.  Even as their teacher I am neither a perfect weight nor am I in perfect health.  However, my life contains a significant amount of awesome that I am happy to share.  And to me, helping your life contain even just a little more awesome is a worthy goal.

So, I am deeply honored and deeply grateful that I have been selected as one of the unfortunately-named but super-well-intentioned “Top 35 Healthy-Weight blogs”, because it gives me the opportunity to share my thoughts on this very important topic with you.  And I thank you, as always, for listening.

Love, Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. If you’re interested in a fitness challenge tailored to your specific body and capabilities, I’d like to invite you to consider the Fit Fatties Virtual Events and Decathlon.  We’ve got all kinds of events both traditional (1 Mile Walk/Run/Roll, triathlon, 10 mile bike ride) and extremely non-traditional (romp with your kids or your dogs, engage in cheesy dance moves, shovel snow out of your driveway, tromp around a museum).  Join in the fun!

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One thought on “What is a “healthy weight”?

  1. Ana

    Congrats on your award. You deserve it, Really someone who is healthy and nutritious can move around, be agile, not have pains, etc. And you’ve proven that you can do that without having to starve yourself. I saw your video on your home page and I loved it! I liked it on YouTube also. You can really benefit from being yourself.

    Thanks for what you do.

    Reply

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