Skinny Isn’t the Measure of Health
I am a healthy person, but that’s not why I’m skinny. And I will readily admit there have been times – and will still be times – when I am unhealthy and skinny. There is so much pressure in our society to be thin that not many people are talking about the fact that thin doesn’t necessarily mean healthy.
Now, I know that there are a lot of Americans who are overweight, and having a goal to lose some of that weight is a good one, in order to be healthy. I do not mean to minimize this issue or overlook the statistics.
But I do want to challenge, and point a little finger at my thin friends out there, the idea that if you’re thin you can eat whatever you want, simply because you’re thin. It’s as if thin is the goal, and if you’ve reached it, you’re good to do whatever and live however you want.
I was with a group of women last week and one of my friends was talking about the coke and cheetos she buys at work. Another friend said, “yeah, but you’re thin so you can eat whatever you want.” “I’m thin,” she replied, “but I’m not healthy.”
I didn’t say anything at the time, but inside I was saying, “thank you” for admitting and recognizing the difference. Weight is not always a good indicator of health.
So what IS a good, outside indicator of health? How can you judge your health based on your looks, if you’re not staring at the scale?
1. Pay attention to your skin. Is it dry and flakey? Maybe you need more water. Are you breaking out? Maybe it’s more than just hormones.
2. Pay attention to your hair. After having a baby, I can definitely attest to this one – your hair reflects the state of your body. Healthy body = healthy hair.
3. Your teeth. Like your hair and skin, your teeth can tell you a lot about what is going on inside your body. And a good dentist can help you with that as well (and here I pause to take my own advice and make a stinkin’ dentist appointment already).
4. Optimal weight for you. One of the keys to being healthy all around is learning your own body and what YOU need. Diet books don’t work because they aren’t written for YOU and YOUR BODY. Learn to listen to your body to feed it what it needs. In the same way, recognize what YOUR optimal weight is (and be honest with yourself – you don’t have to tell anyone else!) and reach for that goal. For me, I am healthy when I have a few extra pounds – because this means I am not running around frantically, I am eating full meals, and I am getting proper nutrients.
My dad has ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease – for which there is no known cause or cure. It affects your nervous system and many people who contract the disease are marathon runners (my dad included – see, I have skinny genes). In other words, not a lot of extra fat to protect the nerves that run through your body. Now, I’m not saying I know the secret to this disease, but I do see a connection here – sometimes fat protects us and our nervous system.
And if indeed ALS can be genetic (though it doesn’t seem my dad has that strain of the disease), then by all means, I will take an honest approach to my health and my weight, remembering that skinny isn’t the best measuring stick to determine my health.