Is there a “Goldilocks,” ideal weight – not too light, not too heavy, but just right for each of us? And just how much is too light or too heavy?
Are you happy with your weight? Oftentimes, carrying extra weight can be a burden, particularly for those serving in the military whose job may demand periods of high exertion. I am no physician or dietician, but I have worked hard with the opposite problem – i.e. maintaining sufficient weight – throughout my active life.
For those carrying “excess weight,” the standard answer is to work off the pounds through diet and exercise. But, how much should one work off? A new view of health and weight is emerging. It’s called “health at any size,” or “health at every size.”
The Healthy Weight Network defines it as “a health-centered paradigm that focuses on total health and well-being, not weight. It promotes active living, eating well without dieting and a nurturing environment that includes respect and acceptance for people of all sizes.”
I like this focus on total health – what we think of ourselves is just as important as what our time is in a half mile run or how many pull-ups we can do.
My training as an engineer (I have a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering) taught me to make sure my analysis of any problem identifies root causes rather than beginning with effects, before applying the laws of motion or physics to solve it.
For me, when it comes to health, the root cause starts with what I think and know about myself, and my willingness to maintain certain standards of thought. I like to think of it as working from the inside out, rather than the outside in. This spiritual view came to me through my faith practice and study of ancient texts, like the Bible. For me, getting some understanding of my relationship to a higher power provides a stability, grounding and freedom from many limitations I might otherwise put on myself. Whatever practice you choose to center yourself – be it spiritual, yoga, meditation or just mindfulness – it can bring sunlight to problems that appear to hold only darkness.
In 2008, I competed in the National Senior Track and Field meet at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Ky. I had qualified for the meet by winning the 400m race in Virginia, but it had been many years since I had competed at this level. There were many fans in the stadium, and while warming up, I could not help being impressed with the speed and fitness of my competitors. Despite putting in all the work to be ready, I found I had no strength in my right leg. The thought occurred to me that this problem might be linked to the pressure I was accepting from the conditions around me.
When the gun went off, the leg was fine and I ran well, finished strong and was happy with my time. After the race I realized that I had mentally been overwhelmed by the picture of very strong and fit competitors. It was a real lesson for me in keeping my thought focused on myself and my own sense of health and strength.
As a member of the Armed Forces, you are required to meet certain weight and physical fitness standards. If meeting them is a challenge or worry, consider getting your mental fitness in order as a foundation for any fitness or diet program. You may find that doing so provides a balance that makes working out easier and keeping fit a reachable and sustainable goal.
To learn more about “health at every size, visit www.healthyweightnetwork.com/living.htm.
This article originally appeared in NavyFlagship News Health & Fitness Column