I was a teenager in the 1980’s during a time of hyper-focus on thinness and weight for women. I started doing Jane Fonda’s workout at 12 and went to aerobics classes where Olivia Newton John’s “Get Physical” played in the background. I watched several moms of my friends join Weight Watchers. Although that program and others like it emphasized the importance of healthy food choices, the focus was still on weight and physical appearance. The message I internalized was that I could only be healthy and happy if I was a perfect weight and looked a certain way.
I became interested in studying nutrition in my early 20’s because I began to recognize how my food choices affected my well-being. But my nutrition focus was still tangled in the messages I had internalized when I was younger. For a long time, I equated nutritional health primarily with body weight. I remember clearly the thoughts of self-loathing and shame related to my weight, body image, and food choices. For me, those thoughts associated with aiming for a particular weight quickly took my focus off of my overall health and well-being.
Over the years, I found that I made healthier food choices when my health goals were health focused. What I mean by “health” here is physical, mental, and emotional health. In the past decade or so, I’ve begun to let go of weight goals and really think about what I want for my long-term health. I want to
increase my physical strength
have more energy
have mental clarity
and I want to enjoy my food.
For me, health goals such as increased physical strength or more energy, are not tied to past demeaning thoughts about my weight or body image. Any progress I make toward increased strength or energy, for instance, is positive and that success motivates me to continue working towards those goals or to make new ones.
I recognize that some health conditions are greatly impacted by weight, such as joint pain in some people whose BMI is classified as “overweight” or “obese” and weakness and fatigue in some whose weight is very low. There are times when a focus on weight is appropriate and I do work with people on goals related to weight management. But weight is only one potential indicator of overall health.
In my business, I provide practical solutions for nutrition goals. I help my clients choose healthy habits that are realistic for their current lifestyle and abilities. I work with them to identify the strengths they already have and areas that they can improve. I want my clients to know that they have control of their health by focusing on healthy choices they can make and how that can increase their health and sense of well-being. So that whatever their overall health goals are—more energy, less pain, increased mobility, aging well, or weight loss/gain—they can celebrate reaching health goals and know that they are improving their short-term and long-term health.
Ultimately, I want my clients to feel good about themselves and their bodies; to know that they don’t have to look a certain way or be a certain weight to be and feel healthy.
During the month of July, I will be organizing group classes. If you are interested or know someone who might be, drop me a line at Shauna@ShaunaHillNutrition.com.
Check back for my next blog post on the importance of “self-compassion” in reaching your wellness goals.
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