What’s more important: bodyweight or healthy lifestyle?

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I remember the days way back when I first started my nutrition counselling practice and the thinking was that if you were thin, you could subsist on potato chips and a cola drink with no adverse effects. It was only the overweight who had to consider the nutritional value of their eats.

Well, nutritional science has come a long way. The myth of skinny people having the freedom of consuming sodium and fat-laden options offering few nutrients has been exploded. Thin people do develop chronic diseases linked to what’s on their plates.

At the same time, while obesity does up the rate of many chronic diseases, consider that focussing only on the numbers on the scale, at any cost, will not bring about good health and permanent lifestyle changes.

In my practice, I often ask people who are attempting to lose weight if they are enjoying what they’re eating. If they answer with a resounding “no”, I know that they won’t continue with their new food style for long. They’re often surprised when I talk about making their meals more appealing.

Simply put, boring bland food makes people miserable and adds stress to their lives. Healthy eating should make you feel good – not tired and deprived.  Eating plans should also include some decadent delights.

There’s no doubt that bringing together the pleasures of the palate with good nutrition can yield habits that last a lifetime.

The same goes for exercise. Working out only for weight management doesn’t last long for most people. Doing it because it reduces stress and provides energy for an active lifestyle can also yield habits that last a lifetime.

The best thing I can do if I haven’t had a good night’s sleep the next morning is to get my heart rate going for a good 20 to 30 minutes and I stop dragging myself around.

Basing everything on calories only – taking in as few as possible and burning as much as you can – for the purpose of waist management doesn’t provide maximum health perks – either physical or emotional.

Nutrition guru and founder of the founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, Dr. Dean Ornish,   in a New York Times Op-Ed piece, outlines a strong case for Eating for Health, Not Weight.  He points to the  fallacy is that as long as you lose weight, it doesn’t matter what you eat. He also outlines accumulating evidence that some weight loss regimes that may lead to shedding fat may be harmful to your health over time.

There is also currently  a movement afoot called Health at Every Size which considers itself  a peace movement. It makes sense.  The group acknowledges that fear of becoming fat or being fat torments many people.  Their mission is based on the simple premise that the best way to improve health is to be at peace with yourself and honor your body – to adopt health habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight control).

Sounds like a smart strategy, doesn’t it?

What are your thoughts? Do you think that weight trumps all or do you agree that healthy habits are more important? Please share your opinions in the comment section below.

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Categories: Rosie's Rants

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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