Weighing in on health

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An estimated 30-50 billion dollars per year is spent on the diet industry. That’s a chunk of change for something that has a known long-term success rate of 2–5 percent.

If new cars were that reliable, would we keep buying them? Of course not, yet it’s estimated that at any time in the U.S., approximately 40 percent of adult women and 25 percent of adult men are attempting to lose weight, spending hard-earned money on some sort of diet food, product, or book.

Our weight is just one number that can be used to measure health, but it seems to be the one that gets all the attention. Actually, there are other numbers we should have an equally good understanding of, some of which are cholesterol levels, blood glucose, and resting heart rate. Health measurements that aren’t numbers at all should also get our time and attention: how well do we sleep, what’s our stress level, our energy level, how positive is our relationship with food, how strong is our immune system, and how active are we?

If our shape and size are the only ways we measure our health and well-being, we could easily be dissatisfied and discouraged in this area. The culture in which we live surrounds us with media messages that equate extreme thinness with health, well-being, and success. However, it is possible to be thin and unhealthy, and it is possible to be heavier than average and healthy. Evidence is piling up that our body size has less to do with a long and healthy life than does our fitness level and the types of foods we regularly eat. Turns out that the fittest men and women have the lowest death rates, regardless of their weight.

Sounds like gaining healthy living skills could be a better way to spend our hard-earned cash than on quick-fix dieting promotions aimed only at short-term weight loss. When we implement permanent healthy lifestyle choices regarding our activity and stress levels and what and how we eat, we must remember that these things have their own intrinsic value even though they may not result in us becoming a particular size or weight. Healthy patterns of life deserve our utmost attention. Time and money invested in these activities save on our healthcare spending and increase the quality of our life. What a difference compared to the 2–5 percent success rate of the weight loss industry!

Your comments in response to this article are welcome – send them to healthatanysize@gmail.com.


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