Are you happy with your weight? Now is the perfect time to take a closer look at your weight and how you feel about it.
Depending on the source, Healthy Weight Week is either this week (Jan. 13-19, 2013) or next week (Jan. 20-26, 2013). But either way, a time of awareness about weighty issues is upon us.
According to the Healthy Weight Network website, “the 20th annual Healthy Weight Week is a time to celebrate healthy, diet-free living habits that last a lifetime, and prevent eating and weight problems. Our bodies cannot be shaped at will. But we can all be accepting, healthy and happy at our natural weights.”
The Network website also states there is a “Women’s Healthy Weight Day” on Jan. 24, 2013.
Of course, weight does not only have to do with our bodies. The whole concept of a “healthy weight” has everything to do with our minds as well.
Ramani Durvasula, the author of “You Are WHY You Eat: Change Your Food Attitude, Change Your Life” and a clinical psychologist, said in an email that taking care of the body by keeping it at a healthy weight is also taking care of the mind, and vice versa.
“Unhealthy weight can contribute to issues with self esteem, and it is reciprocal - when we don't value ourselves, we don't treat ourselves well (e.g. eat badly, don't exercise, don't sleep enough) - and that shows,” Durvasula said.
She said a major tool to moving toward a healthy weight is practicing mindfulness. Instead of using food to medicate, it’s necessary to stop and think about any problems that come up.
Durvasula said that healthy weight can be influenced by different factors like activity level, muscle mass, genetics and height. She said bodies have a “set point,” which is “the weight our bodies will sit at as long as [we] eat a healthy set of calories and maintain appropriate levels of activity.”
“Our healthy weight is often not our aspirational weight,” she said. “I have seen dozens of women and men in my clinical practice who destroy their bodies in the name of achieving that size 0/2 body, when the size 8 body is actually about where their body stays and is healthy.”
Durvasula has more suggestions for how to get to a healthy weight.
“Take the time to connect back with you, take stock on how you eat, and most importantly why you eat,” she said. “Keep a food diary to identify tricky times of day, places, foods, etc.”
Sometimes psychological issues are the culprit of food issues, and that’s when it can be helpful to see a mental health professional.
“This is about your body and your mind - listen to both and don't just mindlessly follow a ‘diet plan’ to achieve a short term weight loss goal -this should be about mental and physical wellness and sustainability,” Durvasula said.
Martina Cartwright, a registered dietitian in Scottsdale, said the connection between good mental health and healthy weight is complex, because some people are at an unhealthy weight but think it is healthy, and they might experience poor mental health.
“So if we define healthy weight as being within one's BMI or appropriate weight for age AND the person accepts that their current and truly objective weight (as measured on the scale or the way their clothes fit) is healthy, then yes being a healthy weight does impact mental health,” Cartwright said.
However, it is also common for most women to have issues with their weight or certain body parts.
“The depth of this dissatisfaction can have a profound effect on self-esteem, self-confidence and happiness,” she said. “Having a positive outlook is usually coupled with higher self-esteem and better body satisfaction but may not lead to a healthy weight. It is more about body acceptance rather than the number on the scale.”
She said some studies have been conducted showing a link between weight and mental health issues. For example, obesity has been associated with moodiness, sadness and depression.
“Obsessive compulsive disorder is often linked to anorexia nervosa, and depression is associated with stress or binge eating disorder and bulimia,” Cartwright added.
“Most bulimics are within normal weight ranges. However, anorexics are very thin and many binge eaters are overweight.”
Depression can also contribute to weight gain, and vice versa.
“Positive people are more likely to be successful at weight loss as they believe in themselves and believe that they can achieve realistic goals,” Cartwright said.
“Stressed people will either eat or not eat as their coping skill.”
Healthy Weight Network. Celebrate Healthy Weight Week. Healthy Weight Week. Web. Jan. 16, 2013.
Durvasula, Ramani. Email interview. Jan. 14, 2012.
Cartwright, Martina. Email interview. Jan. 14, 2012.
Reviewed January 17, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith