There has been a lot of attention lately on what’s healthy in terms of body size. The brave decision of Cosmopolitan to put a plus-sized lady on the cover with the slogan "This is healthy" sparked a debate on what health means, and of course, whether we can finally let plus-sized people off the hook.
What is health, anyway?
The definition of health, according to WHO, is "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity". So it is not only about the body, but also about the mind, and, interestingly, social connections! Is it possible that the rejection, ridicule, and bullying that plus-sized people are subject to harm their health more than their supposed excess weight?
1. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly
First of all, let me point out that the WHO definition does not mention anything about looks. The body you are simply unhappy with because you’ve been told that you should lose a few - to fit some beauty ideal that is also unhealthy and unsustainable - is probably perfectly functional and healthy. Instead of focusing on dieting and suffering until we fit the mold, we should change the rules of the game. A body that takes us where we want to go, allows us to do what we want to do, and gives us a feeling of well-being: that’s what the goal should be.
If you want to know your state of health, consult your doctor. They can run tests to see if your body is doing what it is supposed to do, and correct anything that is off. If you get a clean bill of health (as many supposedly overweight people do) there is really no reason to worry about slimming down just to please others.
2. A body’s natural weight
In my experience, a human body has a natural point of balance, and if you listen to your innate body wisdom, eat and exercise accordingly, your body will naturally find this balance. For some individuals, this will be a weight that society finds acceptable, but for many, it is not. This is an important fact to recognize. For example, my metabolism is such that I will never be skinny without constant self-deprivation. But I learned to accept that! If you are in harmony with your body and can’t lose weight - maybe you are not supposed to.
3. Mental health is closely connected to body health
Now, I’m not saying that eating whatever we feel like eating is the healthy way to go. As I mentioned in last month’s article, emotional eating is very common, and we tend to eat higher amounts of unhealthy food when we are stressed. But this is a mental health issue, and it should be treated with psychological methods instead of harsh diets. When mental balance is restored, you will notice your body will also feel better.
Health is a complex concept, it involves mental and social components as much as physical ones. Whether it is about yourself or somebody else, hold off the judgment and focus on well-being in all areas! And do not forget: what is essential might be invisible to the eye.