A great article by Elizabeth Narins, that I had to share so all my patients and friends could read and share their thoughts on! So read the 10 Signs You’re Healthy… and think about it!
Weight isn’t the only way to gauge your health — and most of the time, it doesn’t even provide an accurate assessment. (Alone, the number on the scale says nothing about your disease risk, physical fitness, mental health, and many other aspects of well-being that figure into health.) But because weight tends be one of the first things your doctor measures, and because at home, it’s easier to step on a scale than take your own vital signs, you’d probably never know.
A review recently published in Journal of Obesity points out that putting all this weight on, well, weight, is doing more harm than good — tying “healthy weight” to health itself can make heavier people feel ashamed, deter doctors from solving overweight patients’ health issues, and make lighter people less cautious about their health. Never mind that it’s entirely possible to be simultaneously overweight and healthy, or “normal” weight and unhealthy.
“We want health to be a number and say, ‘This blood pressure equals health,'” says Fall Ferguson, master of holistic health education and president of the Association of Size Diversity and Health. “But that’s just one risk factor, and health is so much more nuanced. It isn’t a quantifiable phenomenon.”
It’s no secret that health is also very individualized. You’d need a medical degree, some blood work, and a slew of clinical tests to tell the full story. But if you want to see where you stand between checkups without stepping foot on a scale, consider these signs of health from Ferguson and the review authors:
1. You eat more whole foods than processed foods. You can’t deny that food plays a role in health. But people tend to have an all-or-nothing approach to eating well — and a salad-only diet doesn’t guarantee good health. “One of the simplest things you can do is eat more whole foods and fewer processed foods,” Ferguson says. That means eating lean protein like chicken breasts instead of processed deli meat, whole grains like brown rice and quinoa instead of breads, chips, and crackers, and, yes, lots of veggies and fruits.
2. You eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. (At least most of the time.) There’s good evidence that those behaviors are going to make you healthier and feel better even if your weight doesn’t change, according to the authors of Journal of Obesity review. Because this is much easier said than done (especially for former dieters) start by paying attention to what happens to your body while you’re eating, half an hour after you eat, and two hours after you eat. When you realize which foods satisfy your appetite and give you sustainable energy, and which ones make you feel bloated or sluggish, you’ll begin to see food both pleasurable and functional, and you’ll be less likely to eat foods that don’t benefit your body and more likely to eat quantities that suit your needs.
3. You don’t beat yourself up when you indulge in something sweet or fried or generally considered unhealthy, because (1) it was freakin’ delicious, and (2) you don’t eat it every day. And that has nothing to do with watching your weight — you just know that your body functions better when you fill up on wholesome foods.
4. You move your body and call it exercise. And you kind, of sort of like it — even though you know that it doesn’t make you “good” because your health has nothing to do with morals or the quality of your soul. Oh, and it doesn’t have to be 45 minutes or an hour — short amounts of activity throughout the day can seriously benefit your mental and physical health. (Check out these quick workouts for inspiration.)
5. You don’t let the amount of food you ate make you “feel bad,” or anything but satisfied or hungry for more. See above.
6. You have some sort of connection to your community. Whether that means grabbing lunch with your office crew or volunteering with a church group or wearing your sorority letters, long-term studies suggest that tight-knit communities are clinically healthier than their disconnected neighbors.
7. You sleep enough to function. Whether that means sticking to a 10 p.m. bedtime or sleeping in on the weekends until noon, you should get enough sleep to go about your day without binge drinking coffee or falling asleep at the wheel. Also: Lack of sleep can mess with your body’s hunger signals, so you can’t quite figure out whether you’re satisfied or starving. (See No. 2 above.) While you’re at it, make sure you’re not making one of these major sleeping mistakes.
8. You can physically accomplish the things that are important to you. That might mean simply walking up stairs without getting winded or running a half marathon. If you’re out of shape, you may not be able to attain either overnight. But good health means you can set a goal and stand to reason that you’ll get there.
9. You can manage your day-to-day life — or feel like you have the kind of help you need to get by. That means you don’t burst into tears at work on the reg. And apart from the occasional bad day, you can generally handle the challenges life throws at you. What does this have to do with health, you ask? It’s a sign that you’re well suited to repel the kind of stress that leads to chronic disease. “There’s more to health than physiology,” Ferguson says.
10. You can find a way to feel awesome about how you spend your days. Not everyone can do work they love. But if you can figure out a way to make it personally meaningful (i.e., appreciate that your shitty job pays the rent for an apartment that you happen to love), your upbeat attitude will make you more resilient and enhance your well-being.