How We Can Really Support Others To Be Healthier
The definition of health is the condition of being sound in body, mind and spirit. It means being free from physical disease or pain. Therefore, you have to have health to live life with purpose and fulfillment. This is a beautiful description, but sadly not the main focus of today’s diet culture.
You could eat all your points in Halo Top Ice Cream, eat 10 gluten free kale salads or shove organic Twinkies into a portion-control container and it doesn’t make you healthy. Our bodies are brilliant and complex. As nutrition experts we know the science and have spent years studying, but none of this really matters if we can’t apply it in a way that truly benefits people. So the question is, how do we best support others to be healthier?
It is eye opening to see that healthy can look so many different ways.
In my practice, as I started guiding people through struggles and around barriers, I began to realize how linear our thinking about nutrition is. It’s all or nothing, either good or bad, and when the scale moves down you receive praise, leaving you full of shame if it doesn’t.
Ironically, the diet mentality blinds us from actually being healthier. With this realization, I shifted my perspective on health to embrace the principles of Intuitive Eating, which focuses on your body’s natural hunger/fullness cues and rejects trendy dieting tactics that can actually do more harm than good.
How has the word health become more about appearance than being well within? Why do we compare ourselves to others with unattainable expectations? Why is the focus of eating on restriction instead of joy and nourishment?
Why are we praised when we take up less space?
One of the most obvious reasons is because the scale and BMI are used as the primary indicator of success when they are so limited in what they can actually tell us about mental and physical wellbeing.
It is difficult to help improve people’s health when the scale determines if they have failed or succeeded. The number unfortunately often dictates what should be eaten, self-worth, and what you are “allowed” to do. People become a slave to an object that only measures mass or downward force to the Earth.
Being healthy is about adding diversity, not limiting it.
To better support others, we need to promote more size/shape diversity. More photos of real bodies, moving as they would in real life without being retouched. Normal bodies have cellulite, tummies that squish, and a shape that is constantly changing to adapt. All body shape and sizes are good. Embrace your uniqueness.
To better support others, we need to support more food diversity, not just nutrient dense foods. Social media can be especially toxic. If you are scrolling through your feed and only see “healthy” foods, you aren’t getting a realistic idea of what a normal diet includes. Make it a goal to follow people who eat a variety of foods.
To better support others, you don’t need to be skinny, have perfectly sculpted abs, or have a ton of food rules, you just need to respect yourself and treat your body with more kindness.