Over the past 20 years we have watched the focus on “weight loss” become a national obsession in the United States. Yet it seems the thinner we are told to be, the larger a good portion of our society has become. It looks like many people have become very discouraged, or even depressed by the amount of emphasis on what the scale says.
As a personal fitness trainer, I wonder how we became so exclusively focused on a person’s weight as the primary way of evaluating health. Of course it is important to be a size that makes it easier to move around, but many other aspects of wellness are also important to enjoying a high quality of life.
Here are a few of the fitness goals my clients and I choose to work towards in addition to maintaining a healthy weight:
Building A Strong Immune System: It is great when a person is eating and sleeping well enough and managing their stress levels. The result can be a reduction in the number of times they become sick, the severity and length of illness should it occur, and how quickly they can rebound afterwards.
Improving Level of Comfort: If a person is in pain, life becomes less enjoyable regardless of size. One important aspect of staying comfortable is body awareness. Try not to sit, stand or move in awkward positions for long periods of time.
Agility and Grace: Have you ever met a small person who sounded like a herd of elephants when they walked around, or a larger person who knew how to glide along with elegance? Learning to move more smoothly is a great way to reduce the amount of strain on one’s joints. Plus it looks beautiful and feels great!
Faster Reflexes: People who have developed their reflexes can respond more quickly to changes in their environment which helps avoid car accidents, injuries and falls, dropping things, etc. It is also great for many sports and activities.
Improved Bone Density: It is especially vital for men and women with smaller frames to make sure they keep their bones resilient. Strength training and other medium resistance activities leaves people less vulnerable to breaking their bones as they age.
Ready to get started? Here is a previous post I wrote called, Tips For Safer Strength Training.
Posture – Standing Tall and Relaxed: A person who stands in excellent alignment will have an easier time breathing deeply, look more attractive, and present an image of pride in how they move. Young people in particular should correct any limitations to good posture in order to avoid turning poor habits into a lifelong problem.
Body Acceptance: What is the point of having a body if one is obsessed with negative thoughts about themselves? Aren’t we here to enjoy ourselves? People of any size can be suffering from eating disorders, low self-esteem or other forms of self-criticism. My favorite client is one who has learned to be satisfied with themselves, while still being motivated towards additional improvements.
Balance: Perhaps the most important element of fitness, balance directly affects how likely one is to have falls and accidents.
Flexibility: Improved flexibility relates to activities of daily living like reaching for an item from a high cupboard or being able to tie your shoes with ease.
Power and Endurance: Functional Fitness is about being capable of accomplishing the daily activities in one’s life. Just carrying one’s luggage through an airport can turn into a mini-marathon! Playing with children, walking a dog, helping a friend move or even getting to safety in an emergency all take strength and stamina.
Improved Sensuality and Sexuality: Sensuality relates to body awareness in pleasurable ways–noticing when food tastes great, feeling the smoothness of a favorite fabric or the perfect amount of breeze on a warm day. It means being sensitive enough to savor a favorite smell.
Sexual improvements can include having more vigor and better blood flow and feeling healthy enough for one’s natural libido to come alive. All the goals listed above can help contribute to better enjoyment of one’s body.
Energy Level: At any size or weight, it is best to have enough physical energy to want to go and participate in whichever life adventures most appeal to you.
OK, this post is getting a bit long and there is still so much more to say. My main point is that if we can expand the range of ways we define and work towards creating vibrant health, maybe more people may feel inspired to participate. Perhaps if we reduce some of the emphasis on how much we each weigh, and include more of these additional goals, fewer people would be so discouraged that they become severely obese in the first place.
How about if we try this broader perspective for a while? What do we have to lose?
Best wishes to us all, Margo Rose