Skinny or Healthy?

person stepping on scale

Not too long ago my Mom was taking my kids and my 8 year old nephew for the afternoon and my nephew reminded her that he wanted to go to McDonald’s for a snack.  I said, “McDonald’s, YUCK!”  My nephew proceeded to lift up his little shirt and say, “But Aunt Anna, I’m already skinny, so it is ok!”  My response to him was that it’s really not about being skinny, it’s about being healthy.  While McDonald’s does have some healthier choices, it’s not the healthier items most of us gravitate towards.  It was so interesting to me that even at this young age his focus was on appearance or weight.

Recently I was talking with a client and discussing long and short term goals. She talked about how she would love to look like she did 20 years ago and be “skinny” again. It is so tempting, especially in a society where beauty, youth, and thinness are so coveted, to put all of our focus on the way we used to look and being thin.  I encouraged her to think about her goals in a different way. Is it really just “skinny” she is going for? Wouldn’t better goals be healthy, capable, strong, fit, able to do all of the things she wants to do?

So many of us get so focused on the number on the scale that we do all sorts of crazy, unhealthy things to our bodies just to get that number to go down. These strategies may work for a time, but in the end these unhealthy means of losing weight backfire, perpetuating the yo-yo diet roller coaster.

The scale can be a good tool to help keep you on track, but for many it is a very negative representation of years of weight struggles. I encourage clients to weigh no more than once a week and for clients who really despise the scale I encourage them to stay off the scale completely for a while and find other markers for seeing their progress as they are creating new healthy habits. Things like the way their clothes fit, energy level, sleep quality, mood, and increased fitness level are all good things to pay attention to, and look for improvements in, as you make changes in nutrition and exercise habits.

Just being “skinny” is not a great goal, although it may sound good. Our eating habits and to what extent we choose to move our bodies can greatly impact our quality of life, especially as we age. Think about it, 20 years from now do you want to be just thin or do you want to be fit and able to take care of yourself and do what you want to do? No matter if you are 25 or 65, your everyday habits impact your health.  Incorporating better habits right now, no matter what your age, can set you up for a better quality of life down the road. Choose every day to move and be physically active and choose nutrient-dense, good-for-you foods, not all, but most of the time.  The choices you make today matter.