If you’re on a mission to live healthier, what do you tend to focus on? Diet? Exercise? Sleep? It could be many things, but sometimes we credit all our success to that number that pops up between our feet on the scale. It’s true that a healthy weight can contribute to ease of performing daily functions and even help to prevent certain chronic diseases. However, weight alone is not indicative of a healthy lifestyle. A key dilemma arises when we concentrate too much on the numbers and less on our own well-being -- our intake may become too restrictive leading to nutrient deficiencies, as well as feelings of deprivation and misery. This can result in yo-yo dieting, where weight is regained once a diet has stopped, triggering a cycle of further dieting and weight fluctuations.
So, you may be wondering, if I shouldn’t focus on my weight then what should I focus on? There is no one-size-fits-all answer; it’s individualized to each person's health journey. However, one thing that can be helpful for everyone, is trying to switch the focus of your health goals from weight loss to enjoyment. Often times those who practice healthy habits for their enjoyment rather than to lose weight, greatly increase their chances of sustaining those health behavior changes. Here are some ways you can change your focus to achieve positive health outcomes:
Move in a way you enjoy. Doing things you love instead of doing them because you “feel like you have to” can make all the difference in the world. For instance, if going to the gym every day is getting old, or you feel like you have to burn “x” amount of calories per day, try shifting your exercise focus from numbers to moving in a way you enjoy. Switch up your routine and go for a hike or play tennis with a friend. When we participate in physical activity for pleasure it is much easier to sustain the habit. Plus, you’ll notice how much more quickly the time spent exercising seems to go by.
Build a positive relationship with food. The same idea can apply to eating. We tend to avoid the delicious foods we love and instead eat the foods we think we “should” be eating. Seeing foods as “bad” or “cheat foods” can create a negative relationship, which can fuel the yo-yo dieting cycle where we restrict too heavily and then overeat as a result. If you love chocolate cake, there’s no reason you can’t have it. Enjoy all foods in moderation and try to choose foods based on your satisfaction, not the calorie count.
There are so many different ways you can achieve a healthy lifestyle that is fulfilling and long-lasting when you focus on the things you love to do! Here are some additional non-weight focused goals:
Try a new healthy recipe every month to increase variety
Try a meatless Monday to incorporate plant-based proteins (beans, tofu, tempeh)
Sign up for a cooking class
Attend a yoga class with a friend
Set a goal to meditate for five minutes every morning
Try a restaurant you’ve never been to
Take a walk with a coworker at lunch
Bottom line: It should be neither a love nor hate relationship with your bathroom scale. Weight is just one of many health outcomes. Overall health is a beautiful balance of things we do that make us feel good. Don’t let the scale skew your entire view on health.
Learn more about healthy lifestyle choices and other wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays.
Written by: Kristin Repella, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern.
1. ABC News
2. Be Nourished