The third week of January is annually Healthy Weight Week.
It is no coincidence that as people emerge from the festivities of the holidays, they crave to get back to a sense of reality and normalcy in their eating and activity patterns. Of course, many people set up special diets and exercise programs at the first of the year in an attempt to rid themselves of the holiday girth and usually they start off pretty well, but by mid-March or so they’ve fallen off the wagon and not achieved their goals.
There are real risks to being overweight and the social, psychological and physical damage are distinct. However, skinny is not necessarily healthy either, and many times people set unrealistic weight-related goals.
The BMI is a fairly good and easy way of determining if you are in the ballpark of a healthy weight — it is simply a ratio of your weight to your height and should register somewhere between 18.5 and 24.9 BMI.
A better measurement is the percent body fat, which for men should be around 15 to 19 percent body fat ratio to lean mass and for women between 20 to 25 percent. This type of measurement gets at the quality of your body mass rather than just the ratio of weight to height. Irrespective of the healthy weight goals, healthy lifestyle is more the issue.
If achieving a healthy weight entails taking drugs, undergoing invasive surgeries or starvation diets, that clearly is not a plan for success. Achieving a healthy lifestyle is far more important than any number on a scale, tape measurer or chart.
Some of the activities that you can undertake to achieve a healthy lifestyle and healthy weight are to get enough sleep, eat healthily — focused on greens and plant food — have active fun, hang out with fun, loving, active people who are positive and accepting of you, drink at least nine big glasses of water a day and practice stress reduction activities such as meditation or yoga.
Living in an environment that accepts people of all sizes, shapes and colors not only helps yourself to live healthily, it gives everyone permission to be natural and feel acceptance rather than shame or discomfort.
Stress can lead to high blood pressure, chest pain, back pain, indigestion, headaches, diarrhea, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, depression, inability to concentrate, forgetfulness, confusion, lack of focus, burnout, mood swings, irritability, anger and low performance.
Stress more than anything can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle, so don’t stress about the weight, just work away at a normal (sane) pace to get more active, eat more healthily and see the results over time.
It has been shown that viewing health solely through a weight-centered perspective has not helped families become healthier, but in fact does more harm than good.
A health-centered perspective leaves restrictive thinking behind and promotes health in body, mind and spirit for people of all sizes — no shaming. The notion that thin people are healthy and large people are not, is false. Many skinny people are skinny because of deadly restrictive diets, using exercise as a purgative, and eating disorders, and are in danger of nutritional deficiencies.
Research from the University of California published in the JAmDietAs, in 2005, studied 78 women over a two-year period. These women were described as chronic dieters.
The group was split into two halves. Women in one group learned to recognize and follow their internal hunger cues, and feel positive about their size and shape.
Over the two years, that group improved in their metabolic fitness measures such as blood pressure and blood lipids, they also became more active, they showed improved eating patterns including less restraint and less eating pathology, and their psychological profile improved with higher levels of reported self-esteem, better body image and less depression.
Here’s the kicker: They maintained a stable weight, sustained the benefits for the two years in the program, and a full 92 percent of the participants in that group stayed with the program for its duration.
The other half of the participants, who had begun a well-respected dieting program, lost weight in the first year, and temporarily improved on many health measures. However, in the second year, they yo-yo-ed back to their initial weight, lost all their hard-won health improvements and almost half of the participants left the program before its completion. Sound familiar?
Dieting with the sole purpose of weight control, without thought for a healthy lifestyle, usually results in short-term weight loss, followed by regain which carries its own health risks, including food preoccupation, binging, and other dysfunctional eating patterns.
Drugs offer only minimal weight loss of about 5 to 11 pounds and of course when the drug is stopped, the weight comes back. Gastric surgery carries a risk of nearly 5 percent death rate and nearly 50 percent death rate for patients over the age of 75, as well as a list of over 60 complications from surgery.
The health at any size approach frees people to take pleasure in eating healthily, engage in activities that they enjoy, not worry about unrealistic size expectations and to live in a fulfilling healthy atmosphere of acceptance.
Please join me on my TV program on Hoike Channel 54, every weekday throughout January at around 6 a.m., noon and 6 p.m., when my special guest will be Josh Nations, owner of the Kauai Athletic Club. We will discuss this issue in detail and help you celebrate Healthy Weight Week. Aloha!
Dr. Jane Riley, EdD., is a certified personal fitness trainer, nutritional adviser and behavior change specialist (National Academy of Sports Medicine). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-8119 cell/text., www.janerileyfitness.com.