857-770-1189 lexy@lexypenney.com

Why I Focus on Wellness, Not Weight and What that *Might* Mean for You

by | Jul 7, 2020 | Body Image

I got off the phone this morning with a potential client and was all fired up. On a recent trip to see her PCP, she was shamed for her weight. They told her “your BMI is overweight and you’re at risk for diabetes, heart disease and other issues,” so she replied (after not even working with me yet, yay for her!) and said, “If you think I’m really at risk for anything, please run whatever tests would show us that,” 

Guess what? All the tests came back sparkling clean, absolutely ZERO issues – blood sugar, cholesterol, everything. 

YOU CAN’T TELL ANYTHING ABOUT SOMEONE’S HEALTH BASED ON THEIR WEIGHT! BMI is an absolute (racist) sham. Did you know it was created in the 1830’s (read: severely outdated) by a Belgian astronomer/mathemetician (read: not a doctor) Adolphe Quetelet who specifically stated that BMI could not and should not be used as an indicator for health. I repeat – he was NOT a doctor, and did NOT study medicine. 

He was also obsessed with studying characteristics of l’homme moyen aka “the average man”. To him, a thin white male represented the “ideal” human. 

We’ve been basing our “health”, “self-worth”, “value”, “happiness” and “health” decisions on this grossly outdated, racist, sexist, elitist, fatphobic system for almost 200 years. 

Weight wasn’t considered an indicator of health until U.S. life insurance companies used height & weight analysis to determine what to charge policyholders. Read: desire for weight loss = financial gain. 

They literally said, “Hey, this white astronomer guy obsessed with thin, white men being the ideal for perfection made this silly height/weight scale back in the 1830’s that tells us nothing about people’s health and specifically told us not to use it in relation to health. I have an idea, let’s use it as an indicator for health and make a ton of money off people’s fear and insecurities around their body weight!”

Read: 72 billion dollar diet/weight loss industry and $460 billion beauty industry.

Some examples of this profitable industry based on our fear of weight gain/insecurities. 

  • Weight loss drugs
  • Weight loss surgery
  • Meal plans
  • Shakes
  • Meal replacements
  • “Special” weight loss foods
  • When your doctor “counsels” you on weight loss 
  • Cellulite creams, tummy tucks, etc.

Here’s the deal. I’ve been a dietitian for 9 years. I don’t know everything, but I’ve seen a lot. I’ve worked in diabetes, cancer, bariatric surgery, weight loss centers, gut health, and pretty much everything in between. Despite what we’re brainwashed to believe, health is NOT about weight. You can be in ANY size body and be healthy, as well as ANY size body and be unhealthy.

Health exists across the spectrum of ALL body types and it’s about health behaviors, not weight. 

Don’t just take it from me though, here’s some research from Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor. 

  1. People who are defined as “overweight” or “obese” actually live as long as normal weight people, and often even longer [32-35]
  2. Studies rarely acknowledge factors like fitness, activity, nutrient intake, weight cycling, or socioeconomic status when considering connections between weight and disease. Yet all play a role in determining health risk. When studies do control for these factors, increased risk of disease disappears or is significantly reduced [61]
  3. There is a robust pattern in the literature that has been named the “obesity paradox” [40, 41]: obesity is associated with longer survival in many diseases. For example, obese persons with type 2 diabetes [42], hypertension [43, 44], cardiovascular disease [41, 45], and chronic kidney disease [46] all have greater longevity than thinner people with these conditions [47-49]

Body diversity and “real-ness” is beautiful – and should be celebrated, not profited from. Small, fat, short, tall, skinny, extra extra large, cellulite, rolls, wrinkles, and the like is ALL normal. The absence or presence of “extra” weight on your body does not dictate your health, despite what we’ve been brainwashed to believe. 

Our diet culture and “wellness” of our society needs a cleanse, not you.

Real talk: health and lifestyle behaviors impact health including (but not limited to) exercise, nutrition, hydration, stress management/self-care, a job you love, sleep, supportive non-abusive partners and relationships, access to non-discriminatory (aka fatphobic) healthcare. 

THIS^^^ is the real deal. This is what I want to spend my time talking to clients about. Putting health FIRST, not weight. What’s the difference?

Putting weight first (what I don’t do) looks like:

“Society says my body should look a particular way. My body exists to make other people comfortable and meet their unrealistic standards, right? So i’m going to do all this really unhealthy stuff to achieve that ideal, because my body doesn’t naturally look like that. I’m going to follow this strict meal plan, count calories, count macros, weigh my food on a scale, measure peanut butter, say no to life, and be miserable in the pursuit of an unrealistic body size. I’m going to say no to the beach, dating, and living life until I’m a certain size.”

Putting health first (what I absolutely do) looks like: 

“I have a body, and f**k what society says it should look like. My body exists to love, be loved, dance, sing, travel, speak my mind, play with my dog, hike a mountain, swim at the beach, have kids, write a book, start a business, pursue my dreams, and then some. So I’m going to care for my body, mind and spirit in the best and most enjoyable way possible. I’m going to move my body often in ways I enjoy, find peace with food so I can enjoy all foods I like in ways that feel good to me, and prioritize my mental health and self-care. 

Whatever my body ends up looking like in the pursuit of this health promoting, realistic, enjoyable way of caring for myself, is what my body ends up looking like. Maybe I lose weight, maybe I gain weight, maybe I stay the same, BUT along the way I’ve learned that my worth, value, and happiness is not based on my jean size. I can live a full, happy, healthy, meaningful life no matter what my body looks like. I refuse to give any more time, money or energy over to an industry that cares more about money than my happiness or health,”

Clearly we live in a really toxic, fat phobic culture that makes it really uncomfortable to exist in a larger body or really, to have any “extra” body fat whatsoever. I want to hear what that’s been like for you and how it’s affected you. If we work together, we’ll definitely talk about what your experience of having a body has been like up to this point. We’ll also work through challenging limiting beliefs about your body, and how to move forward with your body in a more fulfilling way. 

I’m not going to put you on a meal plan, tell you what to eat, or have you count calories. I AM going to help you learn how to listen to, trust and respect your own body, mind and spirit. Our work together will empower you to care for yourself in a sustainable, enjoyable way. Your body might change but that’s not our #1 goal. Instead, we focus on HEALTH (whatever that means to you) and whatever happens with your weight is what’s meant to happen with your weight. 

I’m here for it, let’s get started…

Blog Lexy Penney Nutritionist Boston Intuitive Eating

Hi, I’m Lexy!

I’m a Registered Dietitian, yoga teacher, & body image coach.

I help women make peace with food and built trust with their bodies so they can live the lives they desire and deserve.

Hop on my email list for your weekly dose of food freedom, body liberation and self-care!

Lexy Penney Nutritionist Boston Intuitive Eating

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