Redefining What Healthy Women Look Like

body positive Oct 02, 2020

In an age where we as a society have progressed so far, we still hold antiquated ideas of what an ideal woman should look like. She should be preferably slim with a flat belly and generous breasts. 

This outdated - and unrealistic - ideal fuels the multi-billion dollar diet industry and pushes women to chase a 'perfect' body and starve themselves on diets to achieve this ideal. The race for this 'ideal body' causes a ripple effect in women's health from nutritional deficiencies & increased obesity to a warped idea of what healthy looks like.

My Experience with Chasing Unrealistic Ideals​

And I speak from experience. A few years ago, I lost a lot of weight, like over 90 lbs, and it made me redefine what healthy looks like. I went from a size 22+ to a size 10-12. Even more amazing than that, I was FIT, I was strong and in my workouts I was able to out-perform people who were 10 - 15 years younger than I was. For a woman who had issues walking more than 30 minutes only a few years before that, this was an awesome milestone to hit.

I thought I was healthy. I FELT healthy. I knew I was in better shape than I ever had been in my life. I knew I still had work to do but I was okay with that - it's a lifestyle and not the Amazing Race. I had goals, mostly goals to gain lean muscle and become stronger and leaner.

Then I went to see my doctor about a non-weight related topic and I kid you not, she shifted every topic back to my weight. At 175 lbs I was still obese to her. I still had a lot of work to do. I gotta tell you, she made me feel like I just wasn’t doing enough. I could tell from my discussions with her that because I didn't fit within a certain range on the BMI and because I wasn't skinny ... I wasn't healthy.

In the past, this would have sent me down a dark hole of fad diets and restrictive eating. This time, I chose to focus on all the healthy behaviours I was consistently doing everyday. This included continuing to view my own body as healthy and strong, because that was really what was most important to me.

Maybe you Already Know that Feeling​

 It’s frustrating at best and demoralizing at worst. Because we attach feelings of worth to our body image and when we don't fit a certain ideal or a specific body type, it can impact how we feel about ourselves. These feelings push us to make rash decisions about our weight that have nothing to do with our health and everything to do with our appearance.

I also realized my doctor was only seeing one part of the equation. This one dimensional viewpoint of what healthy supposedly is. And it’s not the whole story. Not even close to it. And even though she has more information than Jillian Michaels had about Lizzo when she commented on her 'health', my doctor is still was operating under the conscript that in order to be healthy, I have to be skinny. I have to fit in that box that doesn't allow for women (or men) with more lean muscle than body fat. It doesn't allow for women who have larger frames and so even if they went all out dieting, would never achieve that little nod of approval that told them that FINALLY they were skinny (aka healthy) enough to stop punishing their bodies with endless diets.

Our Concept of Healthy Has to Change​

Why? Because it doesn't recognize a variety of body sizes and shapes as being healthy. It demands that we only be a certain size, body weight etc to be deemed as healthy. And with respect, that is a load of bull. Because I know a number of very skinny people who on paper fit the ideal of healthy but in reality? They are some of the most unhealthy people I have ever met. And by comparison, I know a number of larger women who work out, eat nutritiously and take care of themselves ... who don't fit into that neat little box. Myself included.

Beyond that, our concept of healthy has to change because it's lead us to make assumptions about people based on what they look like. And without knowing the whole picture, that just means we are assuming that anyone who doesn't weigh a certain weight or look a certain way that they aren't healthy (aka beautiful). And we can't assume stuff like that. Maybe that woman on the bus who you giggled at because of her larger body size, has her nutrition dialed in, she's working out consistently and she's treating herself with respect. You don't know that - so all you can do is body shame and judge her based on her appearance.

It's wrong. And it's wrong on so many levels. But because this kind of behaviour, judgement and body shaming is rampant - all in the name of 'health' - it's allowed. Expressing concerns about body size reveals a bias about 'fatness', not a concern for someone's health.

The impact of this biased viewpoint can be seen in the race we all have to being healthy (aka skinny), and it's having the opposite effect: it's taking a huge toll on our health. It's creating this mindset that in order to reach that goal, anything is acceptable. That means disordered eating, binging, fasting, cutting out whole food groups - literally treating our bodies like crap just so we can fit some outdated ideal of what healthy looks like. Our diet industry is booming even as our health is worsening. As a nutrition coach I can't tell you the number of times I see women doing absolutely terrible things to their bodies. All in the name of being 'healthy'. And. It. Has. To. Stop.

 

Let's Face It, Healthy Looks Different on Everyone

This kind of bias is also creating an 'us vs them' kind of attitude. It's deeming only ONE type of body shape healthy, beautiful and socially acceptable ... and that's even more wrong.

We are more than a number and a dress sizeBeing healthy is more about nourishing our bodies with whole foods and good nutrition than being able to fit into a certain dress size or weighing a certain number on a scale. Feeling healthy is feeling energized, happy with how you look and feeling confident in your skin. Looking healthy is a glow that indicates your are nourishing yourself body, mind & soul.

Being healthy is a state of being. Not a goal weight. Not a number on the BMI scale.

And let's be really clear: healthy looks different on everyone. So even if two women are following the same healthy lifestyle, they won't look the same. They won't be the same size. That's totally fine, because where it counts - they are healthy and happy.

We are more than a number and a dress sizeBeing healthy is more about nourishing our bodies with whole foods and good nutrition than being able to fit into a certain dress size or weighing a certain number on a scale. Feeling healthy is feeling energized, happy with how you look and feeling confident in your skin. Looking healthy is a glow that indicates your are nourishing yourself body, mind & soul.

Being healthy is a state of being. Not a goal weight. Not a number on the BMI scale.

And let's be really clear: healthy looks different on everyone. So even if two women are following the same healthy lifestyle, they won't look the same. They won't be the same size. That's totally fine, because where it counts - they are healthy and happy.

Struggling with What 'Healthy' means for you? ​

Take a good Hard Look at your Core Values & Lifestyle.​

At the diet you're using to achieve those goals. And at the goals themselves. You don't need to look like your favourite fit Instagram Influencer, you just need to work on being the healthiest, strongest - and happiest - version of you. Period.

Today I continue to take care of my body so that I continue to be healthy, fit & strong. I eat a balanced diet, I workout consistently and am working at building more lean muscle in my body. I love my body for all that it does for me and never, ever take it for granted. I still don't fit the ideal body size and shape ... and that's just fine.

For all those women who, like me, are ready to redefine the concept of healthy, I invite you to join the conversation. Whether you want help building a healthy lifestyle for yourself or you want a coach who understands and can help you become the healthiest version of you, I can help.

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