One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned since writing Weightless is that you don’t need to chain yourself to a scale in order to be happy or healthy. You can feel better and boost your health by focusing on habits, not weight loss.
What’s the problem with focusing on weight?
Here’s one scenario: You’re exercising and eating nutrient-rich foods. You’re feeling pretty darn good. You weigh yourself every few days. But the number isn’t budging.
Every time you step off the scale, your heart sinks a little more. Your disappointment turns to frustation and anger. You decide that this is ridiculous, and you stop exercising and ditch your greens. What’s the point? You’re not losing weight anyway.
Here’s another scenario: When the same number glares at you, you cut back on your calories, and banish sweets and carbs from your home. You’re hungry, and your mood takes a nosedive, but you’re committed to losing weight.
You view food as an inconvenience, at best, and, more often, as the enemy. If you do eat more calories than you’ve allotted yourself, you beat yourself up and head to the gym to engage in exercise you don’t even like in the first place.
In other words, hyper-focusing on weight can lead to unhealthy habits. It can become a slippery slope to a negative and distorted relationship with food, and with yourself. Your worth as a human being might even become synonymous with your weight.
Many people focus on losing weight at all costs. They restrict calories and engage in punishing exercise. They eat foods with fewer fats and calories (but with little nutrients). They even cut out whole food groups.
Then, after days of being hungry and not enjoying what they eat, they binge. There’s no savoring, just shoving and swallowing and a deep feeling of shame.
Like the first scenario, focusing on weight loss also can lead you to stop practicing healthy — and enjoyable — habits, because you’re not shedding pounds, or shedding them fast enough.
So, today, I wanted to share a list of ways you can boost your well-being without paying attention to weight. Because you can improve your health, mood and body image, without losing a single pound or inch. Because for many of us — myself included — the number on the scale becomes a noose around our necks.
(Of course, engaging in some of these habits might lead you to lose weight, or gain it, or stay the same weight. The key is that we’re neutral about our weight. It doesn’t become a barometer by which we measure our progress or our self-worth.)
- Move your body in ways that feel fun, energizing or calming.
- Eat mindfully, focusing on the scents, tastes and textures of each bite.
- Pay attention to how certain foods affect you. Do they boost your energy or drain it? Do they make you moody? Do they give you a stomachache?
- Listen to your hunger and satiety cues, and respond to them as best as you can.
- Learn more about intuitive eating.
- Explore which activities are genuinely pleasurable for you and which are numbing.
- Keep a consistent sleep and wake schedule.
- If you have a hard time going to bed, create a calming bedtime routine about an hour or 30 minutes beforehand.
- Savor relaxation and downtime.
- Start a yoga practice at home.
- Take some time to figure out your values, and include activities on your to-do list every day that align with those values.
- Visit your doctors regularly, including your primary care physician, dentist and gynecologist.
- Nurture your positive relationships, and let go of any toxic ones.
- Feel your emotions, instead of eating them. For instance, here are three steps for overcoming emotional overeating.
- When you do find yourself turning to food for comfort, first consider what you really need.
- Reduce the stress in your life by figuring out what you can and can’t control.
- Embrace ease every day.
- Take a walk — and bring your camera.
- Grab lunch with a loved one, and catch up.
- If you have a desk job, get up every hour and stretch your body, or walk down the hall. If you work from home, how about a dance break?
- Explore what it feels like to be in your skin.
- Make wise decisions for you that take into account your boundaries, needs and self-care.
- Consider your self-care policies.
- Go on a weekend getaway, or explore the sights, sounds and eats of your city.
- Make time for play.
- Make sure you’re caring for your basic needs.
- Practice gratitude daily. (Set your alarm for the same time every day. When it rings, name something you’re thankful for.)
- Thank your body.
Remember that you don’t need to lose weight to be happy or healthy. You can boost your well-being, without being chained to the scale.
** I’m really grateful for the Health At Every Size (HAES) movement for teaching me to honor my body and focus on healthy habits.
HAES “supports people in adopting healthy habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight control). Health at Every Size encourages: accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes; eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite; and finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital.”
What activities help to boost your well-being? What are your favorite ways to move your body? Has not focusing on the scale made you happier or healthier?