Greetings from Austin, Texas! I managed to hurt my shoulder and since I was here I went to see my favorite chiropractor. In her waiting room was a so-called Health magazine full of “the best diet tips.” I started to read them and they spanned the gap from completely disproved, to ridiculous, to patently offensive. One that stuck out at me was “Buy an outfit in your healthiest size and put it on the door for motivation.”
What with the who now? Your healthiest size?
Of course the idea that there is a “healthy weight” – as if there is some weight at which you will be immortal until hit by a bus – is an ubiquitous myth. But the idea that you know ahead of time what size clothes you’ll wear when you get to your “healthy weight” adds a charming air of the ludicrous to an already tired myth.
First of all, there are healthy and unhealthy people at every size, so reaching a certain body size can neither be a guarantee of health, nor a sure preventative or cure for disease. Body Size and health are two different things and people can, and often do, pursue one without the other.
This comes up sometimes in talks and people will tell me “Well, I know that when I’m a size 6 I’m healthier.” When I ask them how they know that they will typically point to a time in their life when they were that size as proof.
Often they say it’s the size they were in high school and that’s when they felt the best they ever felt. Ok, dude… in high school you were 17 years old – you could eat tupperware and your body would process it, (10 points for the TV show reference) your body size was probably not the magic ticket to the fact that you felt better and healthier 30 years ago. And therein lies the problem with this method of “evidence.” It assumes that the only reason someone felt healthier in the past is that their body size was different, and that’s a Texas-sized assumption.
Sometimes it’s not high school but a specific time in their lives. Often if I ask a few questions, people will talk about how their diet or movement has changed since then, how they are under way more stress now than then, how they hate their body now, how they’ve had four kids since then. All of these things and more can affect health, especially when we are talking about how healthy we subjectively feel. There’s also the tendency to romanticize the past and that can certainly come into play here.
I think that trying to attain a specific body size in a effort to be healthy/healthier is putting a middle man where no middle man needs to be. I think that the research is pretty clear that, knowing that health is multi-dimensional and not entirely within our control, if we are interested in pursuing health (which is absolutely not an obligation) then healthy habits are the best way to increase our odds for good health, rather than chasing a body size and hoping that we’ll find a bucket of health at the end of the weight loss rainbow.
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