Specializing in self-care plans is a good descriptor of what I do. That is opposed to making weight loss or diet plans, which is actually what most people come to me seeking help with. I find that people can be confused by that, especially when they believe that weight loss is essential for their health. Truth be told, I really don’t buy into the idea of needing to reach a certain BMI, body fat % or number on the scale in order to be healthy. We each have a genetic set point where our body functions at it’s best and many find health outside of the so-called “normal” parameters. I believe that health is a product of healthy behaviors and not dependant on weight. In my experience, the desperate quest to lose weight can actually lead to unhealthy behaviors such as restriction, extreme exercise, bingeing, purging, preoccupation with food and body shape, anxiety about food, etc.
That isn’t to say that I don’t support a client’s goals of weight loss if they feel it will benefit their health. I feel most effective when I am open to all possibilities, trusting the client to know what’s best for them. However, it’s important to explore the reasoning behind any of your health and wellness goals to ensure they are a healthy endeavor. I find that individuals are so desperate to lose weight…but why? Is it actually for health? When an individual starts to engage in unhealthy behaviors to lose weight (as listed above) one would question if it’s for health.
As a clinician, my goal is to reconnect a client with their intuitive and wise voice while steering them away from their critical and self-deprecating voice. Listening to your wise voice will lead to self-trust, wellness and vitality (including YOUR healthy weight) while listening to your critical voice will only make you miserable. While I fully support working toward a healthier body (regardless of weight), it seems that it’s often because of the shame an individual feels about their body. Therein lies the kicker – are your goals (weight or otherwise) produced out of love or shame? Here’s how you will know:
Shame: You put off living life until you meet your goals (i.e you avoid putting on a swimsuit, dating, traveling, etc.) Basically, you hide. You believe that your body shape or size is a sign of personal failure. Weight and body image is directly related to your feelings of worth and value. You focus more on what your body looks like rather than what it can do.
Love: You want to feel better and put yourself in a place to be self-reliant and strong. You know that you will be better able to care for your loved ones when you have taken time to care for yourself. The changes you choose to make in no way effect your worth: You know you’re awesome, now you just want to feel awesome. You focus more on what your body can do than what it looks like.
I find this to be accurate 100% of the time: you will feel shame about food choices if you feel shame about your body. So where to start? Acceptance of, and ideally loving, your body. Then you can move forward in productive change, guided by your wise voice and intuitive signals, which can lead you to health and wellness. Worth and value will not depend on what you look like or your food choices. There will be no moral superiority or shameful feelings – just you living a full and happy life.
We believe one single story about weight – that it’s bad and so are the people who carry it. While on the other hand, the people who don’t have it are healthy and better. It’s easy to internalize the messages we see and hear about food choices, weight and body image. It’s time to rebel and decide that your worth is not dependant on what you look like or what food you do or don’t eat. You are valuable and worthy of love regardless of your body. That realization, deeply internalizing that truth, will change everything. Then, and only then, will you find true health.
Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD