Self-Care is important to your overall health.
This morning I spoke with a new client whose doctor told her she must lose weight; that her weight gain since COVID has led to her developing some health concerns.
This was quite distressing, as you can imagine; she really had no idea what to do and was looking for direction.
Here’s the thing…
Just because her doctor told her she “needs” to lose weight, doesn’t mean it’s actually the best course of action for her health issue. So let’s talk about ways to pursue health that doesn’t involve weight loss.
This article is all about how to set health goals when all you’ve ever known is pursuing weight loss, and the best ways to monitor those goals.
Ten Behaviors that Favor Health
The Health at Every Size® philosophy is all about shifting our focus from weight loss to one that promotes self-care – learning to eat according to hunger and fullness cues as well as satisfaction, choosing physical activities that are pleasurable, managing our levels of stress, getting adequate sleep and, of course, having access to respectful health care. Weight loss goals are not sustainable, but specific targeted behaviors within a person’s capacity are more likely to stick in the long run, thus improving overall health!
Let’s look at 10 behaviors that actually favor “health”:
- Drinking Enough Water: Adequate water intake is important in preventing dehydration and is required for every single metabolic process in our body – from circulation to muscle contraction to digestion. A 2002 study with 20,000 participants, concluded that those with high daily intakes of water (5 glasses or more) had significantly lower risk for fatal coronary heart disease events than those who drank limited water!
- Moving Our Bodies: Moving our bodies keeps our joints lubricated, our blood sugars stable, and our brains more productive. Finding enjoyable movement is more sustainable in the long run than exercising with the sole purpose of weight loss. Whether we have a medical issue such as diabetes or heart disease, moving our bodies will help with stress relief, sleep quality, bone health, and mood.
- Connecting with Friends and Family: Humans are social creatures; feeling socially connected, especially in an increasingly isolated world, is more important than ever. The benefits of social connectedness cannot be overlooked; isolation can lead to decreased self-worth, depression, and anxiety. This has been an unfortunate side-effect of this pandemic.
- Getting Enough Sleep: We all know how awful we feel without a good night sleep. People who are chronically sleep-deprived have a hard time staying in touch with hunger and satiety cues due to alterations in the hunger and fullness hormones leptin and ghrelin. Additionally, people who don’t sleep enough get sick, often due to suppressed immune systems.
- Eating a Balanced Diet: When you’re ready, try and incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and fish. This pattern of eating has proven benefits for heart health, brain health, gut health, and disease prevention. I encourage all my clients to approach gentle nutrition with curiosity and compassion, considering ways to slowly ADD foods, rather than taking away (as is common with restrictive eating).
- Not Smoking: This is self-explanatory. Of note, I grew up in a home with both cigarette and cigar smokers!
- Drinking alcohol in Moderation: If at all.
- Getting Regular Medical Care: Both preventative and treating illness.
- Getting Out in Nature: Studies show that the effects of nature go deeper than just a sense of well-being; A 2015 study of 2,000 people in the UK found that more exposure to nature translated into more community cohesion and substantially lower crime rates. Sounds win-win to me.
- Managing Stress/Focusing on Self-Care: Stress wreaks havoc on our emotional equilibrium and our physical health. Stress influences how our bodies fight illness, our hormone health, pretty much every system in our bodies. Taking time to slow down, rest, and breathe are much more sustainable goals than focusing on weight loss.
Now, how do we decide which goal is worth working on?
When setting goals, I always encourage my clients to start small, instead of choosing lofty goals. For my new client whose doctor recommended weight loss, I would advise her to pick one to two goals that feel reasonable to start.
She informed me that she had not been moving much due to COVID. We set a goal that included walking, either with a friend or by herself. Goals that are specific are achieved more readily. Here is an article on the best way to establish SMART Goals.
She also told me that she was very stressed out, working many hours from home, so we talked about the importance of self-care and taking time for herself.
Self-care is vitally important, not just for stress relief, but also for overall mental health. It can do everything from helping after a bad day to improving your self-confidence. Here are some different ways to practice self-care every day.
Keep a Journal!
A great way to start practicing self-care every day is to keep a journal. Journals are portable and all you need is a pen to get started. Journal first thing in the morning or when you feel stressed!
Carve out some alone time every day!
Make sure you have at least a few minutes each day to yourself. This can be a 30-minute walk that you go on after dinner, a fun 15-minute dance party all alone in your room before bed or just 5 minutes in the morning before everyone else gets up while you enjoy your cup of coffee. It can seem so simple and minimal, but these little stretches of time where you are alone and just doing something for yourself can make all the difference.
Tracking goals can be helpful in this process. Planning out your day – in your capacity – will be helpful in achieving your goals. I put physical activity in my calendar just as I put an important meeting.
That is exactly why I created my Eat.Live.Nourish.™ Intuitive Eating Wellness Planner and Journal.
It is a journal and wellness planner that will guide you to take care of yourself and all the other people who depend on you.
This Planner and Journal is meant to help you focus on you. It will help you do many things:
- Become more in tune with your body and track your progress.
- Focus on Balance and Moderation.
- Make Notes About Your Food and Movement patterns.
- Notice When Your Habits Change and Help You Achieve Your Goals.
This Intuitive Eating Planner also includes ways to help you track your health – especially as you age – so that you are more prepared to talk with your health care providers and be part of your own health planning and healing.
Check it out here. The fee is $37 and it comes with an online version of the Planner or you can print it out to get the full “journaling” experience, and there are two bonus lessons to help you as you make a shift in your approach to food, and how you live your life!
Erica Leon is a Registered Dietitian and practices from a Health at Every Size (HAES®) lens. She is certified as an eating disorder specialist and is passionate about helping women at midlife, menopause and beyond to make peace with food and body image.
Erica is a highly sensitive nutrition therapist who takes the time to learn where you or your family are in the pursuit of health. Respectful of your individual needs and lifestyle, she will provide an honest assessment of whether or not you are a good fit to work together. Click here to schedule a 15-minute Discovery Call with Erica to let us know about your needs, and to see which of our Dietitians is the best fit for you!
Download our Free Intuitive Eating Guide and get off that Diet Roller Coaster for good!