Healthy (and Positive) at Any Size

A few weeks back, my podcast, The Table Chat Show, had an episode where we explored the topic of Health At Any Size (listen here). We discussed what the term means to us as dietitians and health professionals, as well as providing some myth busting on common misconceptions of the term. I’ve been thinking about what we discussed ever since because I definitely had a lot more to say. At the end of the episode, we mentioned a few people we looked up to or followed on social media for inspiration. I mentioned Crystal Renn (pictured below) because she was one of the first women out there, besides my mom, whose messaging really hit home with me.

My parents divorced when I was 10 years old which seemed to be the icing on the cake of the most hormonal part of life, puberty. Suddenly, on top of the swarm of emotions I felt, I became acutely aware that all of my friends and other girls at schools were smaller than me. They could wear certain clothes that I could never fit into. Their hips didn’t seem to jut out as much as mind did. I seemed to take up much more space. Oh, the thoughts! My mother, who was also a curvy woman, knew the struggle I felt and would always help me find stylish clothes that fit me well. I couldn’t shop at American Eagle, but we would scour TJ Maxx, the Misses department of Kohl’s, Lane Bryant, and the newest Torrid that opened in my local mall. Also around this time, I started playing tennis which helped me become more active. I started eating more vegetables and less Cosmic Brownies, and developed more muscle tone. I had a bit more confidence, yet, I was still considered a “plus-size” by teenage standards and overweight according to my BMI. That bothered me.

Most nights after school, if I wasn’t playing tennis, I’d come home, grab a snack and zone out with one of the many, many magazines I received in the mail. Oh, the days before smartphones. Despite my constant struggle with finding clothes that I liked and that fit well, I was obsessed with fashion and magazines, specifically the newly released Teen Vogue (circa 2003-ish). One afternoon, I noticed my mom had earmarked a page in the latest edition, and attached a post-it note saying, “Read this, honey.”

I know that models shouldn’t be looked at as something to aspire to, re: Photoshop, makeup, angles, lighting, clothing, etc, but at the time, Crystal Renn became my new hero. She was featured in a story surrounding her journey to being a plus size model and body positive advocate. Crystal talked about her love of living a healthy lifestyle, being a plus size model in a world of straight size, but also discussed how much compassion she focused on showing her body and her mind, after years of being told she needed to lose weight. I remember thinking that this seemed like the perfect mindset to have! How freeing of a concept. Since then, Crystal has actually been the target of criticism because she’s lost weight over the years. Apparently you’re not supposed to be the ruler of your own body. Since her time though, there are now even more “plus” models who share similar sentiments, like Ashley Graham, Iskra Lawrence, Robyn Lawley, and more.

As years went on, my weight fluctuated, and I landed in the nutrition and healthcare field, I discovered that most of my colleagues don’t discuss this dichotomy of health and being a larger or smaller size than the “norm.” They’re afraid to, I think. Just like the fashion industry! We’re set on establishing this ideal health model, yet ideal health is going to look a hell of a lot different for everyone. Aka, the non-academic world. Yes, there’s a time and place for weight loss or weight gain, when a person is uncomfortable, there’s inherent health risk, or they want to establish a new routine, but that’s not the only answer. I landed in the field of nutrition, not just to help others make better food choices, but to focus more on finding that sweet spot where healthy habits and compassion exist, like Crystal’s article I read over 13 years ago. It wasn’t a research study, but it’s a mantra I’ve learned how to practice in my own life and help others do the same. I’m also still considered overweight according to my BMI, but that doesn’t bother me anymore.

Like we mentioned in our episode, you CAN be a larger or smaller size and still be healthy. There’s no  type of “real” woman. Hell, we’re all real and full of different shapes. Health is multidimensional and not solely focused on weight or physical activity. There’s no one-size-fits all, perfection way to live and be a healthy human being. You can focus on a variety of habits to perhaps bring you to that more comfortable weight (wanna chat?), but don’t feel like you should live your life always thinking you NEED to lose or gain weight. Look beyond that. There’s much more to life than restriction and being obsessed with food. The love you share for yourself, in this very moment, and not when you get to a certain weight, is what matters in the long-run.

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What are your thoughts on health at every size? Let me know in the comments below!

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4 thoughts on “Healthy (and Positive) at Any Size

  1. Doctor Jonathan says:

    I wrote an article on this topic a short time back. Compassion and understanding are two essential emotions that must be included when discussing this concern. I believe the FOCUS needs to shift from weight and physical appearance to BALANCED HEALTHY LIVING. As a physician that worked extensively with an overweight AND unhealthy population of people, the physical manifestations were typically the SYMPTOMS of bigger underlying problems (often emotional) that were commonly left unaddressed. The goal (in my opinion) should not be focusing of physical appearance and acceptance, but rather focusing on achieving a HEALTHY BALANCE between physical, mental, emotional and spiritual FITNESS!

    The body is innately designed to be healthy (in most situations.) When we provide the essential components necessary for good health, it utilizes these to strengthen function and efficiency. As long as a metabolic or true genetic disorder doesn’t exist, our lifestyle and environment largely determines our physical and emotional outcomes.

    In a world with a growing epidemic of overweight and obese people, we must be careful, ourselves, to clearly delineate between overweight/obese as it applies to general health vs. general appearance. If a person is not following a healthy lifestyle, yet shows no tangible evidence (ex. a blood panel) of health complications, it is foolish for a doctor to state to the individual “they are healthy” when in fact, their patterns of behavior are not. Disease and dysfunction typically manifest over time. Correcting unhealthy patterns of behavior (in a REALISTIC manner) is likely to prevent or delay the onset of health concerns. This approach addresses the WHOLE PERSON and not simply their SYMPTOMATIC weight issues.

    If you are interested in my article on this topic you can find it at: https://allabouthealthychoices.wordpress.com/2016/04/06/sports-illustrated-ashley-grahams-fuller-figured-pictorial-what-are-the-ramifications/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erinn Gregory says:

      Thank you for comment! I can’t agree more with what you have to say, and I read your article as well. I like your approach in focusing on the entire individual and achieving that healthy balance. There is a fine line that exists between promoting overweight as an aesthetic value vs. a health issue. That’s why I do focus so much with my own clients on achieving that right balance for them. It’s like those illustrations that show what the body does after quitting smoking, from the short-term to the long-term. Little by little, all of those behaviors and healthy habits will most likely lead to weight loss, but it’s a constant uphill battle. As a dietitian, I get to focus on the food they put in their mouth which plays one of the largest roles. There’s also been many studies showing how that diet-cycle (weight loss, regain, again and again) is incredibly stressful for the cardiovascular system and only increases those health risks for the long-term. It’s incredibly tricky to get to a point where you don’t think of a diet as your only answer, but instead, a piece of the puzzle on the way to better health. That way it becomes a lifetime of habit, not a quick-fix which only adds more danger. I commend you for your efforts in the field, we’ve got a long way to go!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Doctor Jonathan says:

        “It’s incredibly tricky to get to a point where you don’t think of a diet as your only answer, but instead, a piece of the puzzle on the way to better health.”

        These words of yours are crucial for people to understand and EMOTIONALLY accept to achieve the LIFETIME benefits possible. As I worked with patients, the ongoing theme I had them FOCUS on was:
        1. reducing the need for prescriptive medication
        2. adding function and quality to daily living
        3. reducing stress with techniques that people looked forward to using
        4. reinforcing the role model they played (if they had children and/or significant others)
        ETC…
        I told them if they followed a lifestyle that would achieve these (types) of LONG TERM GOALS, a HEALTHY WEIGHT would become a natural END RESULT. As they gained greater confidence in my commitment to them, they accepted greater responsibility to implement REALISTIC LONG TERM CHANGES. Sometimes the COMPASSION and COMMITMENT from a doctor/nutritionist/counselor is the missing piece needed to help people recognize their own self value resulting in greater self confidence and self worth.

        Keep up the good work. Feel free anytime to contact me if you’d like a second set of eyes and/or ears to bounce ideas off. I no longer seek any financial compensation; helping people directly or indirectly achieve their goals produces a much more gratifying form of compensation these days. Wishing you and your clients all the best!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. tabbi says:

    Totally agree that the proper focus/reason/motivation is key. I quit gluten a couple of years ago because I was having weird symptoms that a doctor mentioned might be related. As a surprise result, I wound up shedding a stomach “pooch” that had always held on for dear life despite approximately eight million crunches and leg lifts over the years. I won’t lie, I like the way my torso looks now, but what I really prefer is not feeling like I’m lugging around a bag of rocks in my abdomen or having joints that randomly burst into flames. (And my BMI says I’m underweight, so let’s just all agree it’s a crap metric haha)

    Like

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