What Determines A Healthy Weight?
Let’s be honest and fair: a “healthy” weight has to be individualized, found within the doctor’s guidelines for height, gender, and age. And, with clothing companies “renaming” sizes on jeans… a number size isn’t going accurately define weight.
So what are the variables and parameters that should be used to determine a person’s healthy weight? Should this “number” have its own rating scale that includes specific, smaller objectives that can then pinpoint possible “unhealthy” habits?
As I’ve aged and grappled with my weight, I’ve noticed that I subconsciously put stipulations onto this weighty number. Do you do the same in order to feel like you’ve accomplished something that the number just doesn’t account for, like:
- “I have been eating less processed foods and cut out some sugary treats. Glad the number finally shows that!”
- “Exercise hasn’t been that big of a priority since I last weighed myself.”
- “This medication is really doing a number on me :/ Next time, I won’t be on it so this should reflect that…”
- “I have a chronic sleep deprivation (true story) that I can’t correct right now…
I realized that I had an obsession with my weight and food as I became increasingly frustrated at this immovable number on the scale. Even more frustrated when I couldn’t change it in the direction I wanted.
Once, the GAPS Diet changed all that for me years ago. It enabled me to drop lots of weight and lose inches of fat within a very short amount of time, all while not obsessing about the foods I ate. It enabled me to experience “healthy” a part from a number on the scale while at the same time showing me my healthy weight number.
“Healthy” became a summary of my food choices:
- nutritious food choices, like lean protein, fibrous carbs, and vegetables
- sugar from natural food sources of fruits, raw desserts, and dark chocolates
- familiarize myself with various cooking techniques and new food preparation ideas (fermenting, raw, sprouting, sourdough, meal planning)
As I’ve blogged over this past year, the above healthy food choices made my relationship with food less obsessive. My weight, however, continued to fluctuate and so I’d need to spend time resetting it mindfully and focusing my nutrition on restoring chronic deficiencies.
A realistic, “healthy weight” number should also include lifestyle choices:
- ability to exercise to maintain body weight easily
- identify behaviors that negatively impact a subconscious addiction to soothe with food and use specific foods to heal and restore the gut-brain connection; no willpower needed!
- experiment and incorporate new foods and flavors into weekly meals for balanced nutrition
- assess nutritional baseline deficiencies and use supplements to restore and thrive
In contrast, you can have a great body weight scale number and have serious life threatening diseases or nutritional imbalances that leave you tired and cranky.
I encourage you to find your healthy weight not based on a set, predetermined number but through the exploration of nutritious foods and lifestyle choices that leave you happy with your accomplishments and long term goals. Be obsessed with life, not the weight of food!
The Impact of Food Choices
Author of Retrain Your Brain and Brain2Brain, John Arden, outlines evidence for: “What clients do, including what they eat and their environment, can either influence the activation of genes or suppress genes from activating. Clients have control over their destiny by influencing their biology” (Brain2Brain, 2015).
Case in point is the beneficial impact that probiotics have on mental health, bone broth for healing the gut lining and restoring the blood-brain barrier, and nutritional supplements for both physical symptoms and mental clarity (read The Brain Chemistry Diet by Michael Lesser).
What you decide to eat impacts all parts of your existence… even the genes that you pass down to your children. The common phrase, “A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips” is just the icing on the cake when it comes to the true value of the purpose of food.
Food choices affect your weight, fat accumulation and location, and wellness as well as your ability to think, regulate emotions, and mental health. It’s a weighty topic…
Did you know that food even plays a role in habit formation and the pleasure derived from food? The more I study nutrition, neuroscience, and psychology as facets of weight loss, the more intricately complex the connections become, not less!
“Optimal gut balance begins with your diet, which directly affects that balance. You want to eat a diet with lots of fiber, healthy protein, and healthy fats,” says Dr. Mark Hyman in How to Fix Your Gut Bacteria and Lose Weight.
Finding Your Balance
Fortunately, we are all unique. Answers and food combinations that work for me personally, may not be your thing and that’s OK. As in all areas of life, balance is key. As I hashtag on Instagram, #findyourflavor!
From years of analyzing research and literally hundreds of books, the basics of Reset Your Weight identify the foundation to your personal success. By focusing on establishing a strong, healthy gut microbiome first, you will reap a lifestyle of wellness in multiple areas, not just weight loss.
Your first healthy weight action step might not tip the scale in major ways; don’t be discouraged. Like the consumption of yogurt, some changes and habits work behind the scenes by positively impacting long term success that is not immediately visible (the two larger specific bacteria strains in yogurt actually overhaul how your body metabolizes food) (source).
Be encouraged that small steps are big steps, just like…
Steps To A Healthy Weight
First, I’d recommend an honest evaluation of what you eat. Many health communities throw the eating phrase, “clean eating” around in relation to food choices and shopping. What does this really mean?
Clean eating has become a catch all phrase for choosing foods that are the least processed- think ingredients, not a finished boxed food already prepared. Instead of adding a protein like chicken to a frozen, bagged pasta dish, you are chopping and preparing each fresh ingredient to bring it all together.
Any step you can take to reduce your reliance on prepared food (including eating out at fast food chains and restaurants) is a step in the “healthy” direction. Why? The chemicals on the back of the packages that you cannot pronounce are damaging to your body, overloading your liver and killing any beneficial bacteria in your gut microbiome.
There are two key ways to approach your relationship to food choices: focusing on behaviors like eating patterns and then mindfulness, or cognition, which emphasizes thinking patterns.
Behavior is most successful when you change, or modify, the physical environment to enact changes:
- Elimination: go cold turkey. Clean out your kitchen and toss all of the refined flours, processed snacks, and foods that have ingredients you cannot pronounce. Purchase all new “ingredients” and use recipes to prepare your own foods for at home and on the go.
- Substitution: start swapping. “Eat this, not that” is a significant cultural movement because he taught that you can achieve the same tastes using fresh, healthier ingredients. Here’s the link to get you started! Some easy exchanges: real butter for margarine, canned fruit in 100% juice instead of high fructose syrup, use olive oil instead of a vegetable oil, or try raw honey in your coffee.
Mindfulness embraces understanding the “why” behind the craving or food choices. Once you can identify and verbalize the pull toward a certain food, you can reframe the moments and work on developing new, beneficial “habits” through repetition and role play. I highly recommend the Psychology of Eating website for more resources.
I’m not going to lie to you and say that these steps are easy by any means. Definitely not the fast track to weight loss overnight, either.
This is where the foundation of a healthy gut comes into play to make these steps easier. Get to the root of overeating, cravings, and weight issues quickly with the basics of Reset Your Weight and restore balance in your body. Break the addictive bonds to certain foods and behaviors using food (and probably some supplements).
Here is what’s usually happening: your brain is in dire need of nutrition to keep your body alive and functioning and so it drives you to consume its needed fuel of glucose to even maintain your minimum balance. What is the most common and tastiest form of readily available glucose? Sugar from candy, sodas, and baked goods of refined flours-all of which quickly break down into simple sugar.
What you probably were not accounting for is the addictive nature of these simple sugar foods. While the glucose goes to your brain for fuel, it also stimulates the reward center of the brain just like opioid drugs do, activating the addiction cycle.
Read more in this post: Is Sugar Addictive?
Undercut all of this by healing the gut, which restores balance between the gut and brain. This connection is the biggest small step you can take to a healthy weight!