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“Healthy” Doesn’t Have a Shape

I guess I never realized how much of our society has some form of an eating disorder.  By eating disorder, I don’t mean just in the form of anorexia or bulimia.  Disorders take on countless forms, even addictions to dieting methods.  Just think about all your choices – Adkins, Paleo, South Beach, the Cabbage Soup Diet, “Cleansing/Detox” diets, the Zone, High/Low Carb, High/Low Protein, Intermittent Fasting……  geez!!!

I must confess, I too, have a “carb addiction” which, in turn, translates to an addiction to sugar.  I’m a boredom eater and a binge eater.  Although I have changed my lifestyle drastically from 8 years ago, I still struggle with some of those old bad habits.  I have also had to be very careful about letting my new eating habits swing the “behavior pendulum” too far the other direction.  I also see how easy it has become for our society to go from shaming those who are overweight, sedentary, or who simply don’t fit the perfect image of what healthy looks like, to now shaming those who have 6-pack abs, lower than average body fat, or who simply stay very active.  Why do we do this?  How do we overcome it?

The terms “Fat Shaming” and “Fit Shaming” are relatively new to me, although it’s been a social media phenomenon for quite some time now.  Call me naïve.  I suppose if you view my Facebook page, I could be considered a culprit.  That’s what boggles my mind.  I’ve always thought I was an encourager, someone who loves to cheerlead for anyone striving for a goal to be healthier.  I look at health and fitness very similarly to education.  I sincerely believe we will always continue to learn and grow and experience new things.  The moment we decide we “know it all”, well, that’s when one could say we truly have very little intelligence.  I believe this holds true with health, fitness and wellbeing.  Today, I’m healthy, active, eating well, resting well, etc.  But what about tomorrow and the days and years ahead of me?  It’s a journey that will last a lifetime.  My activities may change, my strength, size and shape may also change.  Does that make me more or less healthy than I am today? Not necessarily, but maybe so! It’s an adventure and I won’t find out until I get there.  All that to say, my Facebook page was designed to build up, never to tear down.  Each person begins their journey at a different time, place and point in their life.  And each person will accomplish their journey at his or her own pace, using different tools, as well as overcoming unique obstacles and challenges.

In a previous blog post, “Beyond the Surface” I addressed how everyone has a story and judging someone by their outward appearance may – and oftentimes WILL – give you a very shallow portrayal of their inner strength and beauty.  Why do we do this?  I can only speak for myself and my personal experiences, but I believe it’s a type of bullying in a sense.  It’s much easier for us to hide our own shortcomings and faults by pointing out someone else’s.  “I may be a few pounds heavier than I should be, but at least I don’t look like that!” Sound familiar?  On the flip side, when I would see someone that looked better than me, I always chose the role of a victim.  “She’s probably always been thin” or “She probably hasn’t had 3 children” or “They can’t possibly understand what it’s like to keep this schedule and suffer through this back pain too!”  What are we afraid of?  Encouraging someone?  Moving out of our misery simply because it’s familiar?  We can take any single situation and turn it into a positive or negative one very easily with our attitudes.

I encourage my clients when the set their goals to share them with as many people as they can.  I also encourage them to share their goals specifically with one person who would love to see them fall short or fail.  Sounds horrible, doesn’t it?  In reality, it’s actually a form of “paying it forward”.  There will always be people in our lives that want us to fall short because it make them feel better about the place they’re in, as I mentioned above.  My personal experience has been that, most of the time, these same folks end up seeking advice and/or becoming the future workout partners of the person that did indeed meet their goal!

A few months ago I was asked to be a volunteer speaker to educate and encourage a large group about health, fitness and wellness.  Recently, at this same type of venue, I was asked to “cover up” to avoid distracting/offending someone.  I often get pointed at in public and I’ve even been touched and grabbed by strangers.  We can’t win, can we? We get shamed for being too big, ridiculed for being too thin and mocked for being muscular.  What’s the deal?  Healthy doesn’t have a “shape”! The term “healthy” doesn’t fit inside a box either.  It encompasses so much more than your weight, your size, your BMI.  I believe it begins with a healthy mind, which will lead to a healthy body in time.

My dream car would be something that feels a little luxurious and comfy, but is still fast (I’m a speed demon!).  My husband, on the other hand, would take something really fast with a tighter suspension.  Both vehicles would get us to and from our destination, right?  So I prefer to have strength and muscle, while my friend prefers a slimmer physique to be able to run for hours for a full marathon.  Is one of us healthier than the other? Crossfit vs. Insanity, free weights vs. machines, Paleo vs. the Zone…….it’s an individual choice as God has created us so wonderfully and uniquely!!  So I challenge you, when you view images from either side, those who celebrate a “curvy body” or those who celebrate a “sculpted body”, celebrate them both!  Remember, being healthy begins with a love and respect for yourself and your body.  That’s simply the beginning of a long journey with lots of exciting things – and challenging things! – to come.

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