I’m often asked what I think the first steps are to pursue health. First, to be clear, I don’t think that anyone is obligated to pursue health or healthy habits. I think that the decision of how highly to prioritize health and the path to take is an intensely personal one. I am also aware that, while there are things that are shown to help us play the odds when it comes to our health, there are never any guarantees.
Still, many fat people have been mislead to believe that dieting is the only path to health and that weight loss behaviors are the only type of healthy behaviors if you’re fat. Once they learn that weight loss hardly ever works and, even when it does it isn’t shown to lead to better health, people can feel completely lost. I remember being really scared in the time between learning the truth about dieting but before I learned about Health at Every Size that there was nothing I could do to help my health odds. Even when I learned about HAES I wasn’t sure where to start.
I’ve noticed that with a diet mentality the focus is often on what we are going to give up (I’m giving up this type of food, this drink, this food group etc.), and doing what we hate (Not a morning person? You are now! Not a runner? You are now!)
I’ve seen people be much more successful doing the exact opposite – making it an additive process and going after the “low hanging fruit” first.
There are any number of things that have been shown to improve our health – more sleep, less stress, fruits and vegetables, movement, water, and that’s just a start. We are never going to be able to do all of them all of the time.
So if you want to put more focus on your health and you aren’t sure where to start, consider adding more of something that you already like. If you love veggies, add a couple more servings in a day. If you hate veggies, leave that alone for now and pick something you do like/can do – get an extra hour of sleep, do some movement that you like, drink some water, hit a pillow with a tennis racket to relieve some stress. Consider laying off the sweeping declarations for now (I’m going to drink x ounces of water every day for the rest of my life! Five servings of fruits and vegetables each day or BUST!) and just make a decision in this moment to have some water or eat an apple. Celebrate every victory and have a ton of compassion for yourself.
Obviously this isn’t the only way, but for me part of rejecting the diet mentality was rejecting the idea that the path to health was paved with giving things up and doing things that I hated. I think there’s absolutely a better way and I think it’s worth it to find it.
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