Hey! What About Shades of Gray?

Caught your attention, didn’t I?

Perfect—as that was my intention. I do feel the need to self disclose, however, as I’d hate for you to get the wrong impression about my taste in literature. (I really am more of a Saul/Grisham/Patterson type.) My apologies for deliberately misleading you, but since you are reading this, evidently it was worth it.

Anyway…

What I’m actually referencing in the title of this post, is a way of thinking. And for me to even suggest that there is something outside the realm of black or white is a pretty big deal…after all, I am the Queen of Black and White.

You may be wondering what instigated this rant. Allow me to explain. A while back, I was scrolling through my twitter feed, and saw this:

“Being Thin Didn’t Make Me Happy, But Being ‘Fat’ Does”

I was intrigued. And troubled. Intrigue won, so I clicked on the link, and was instantly greeted by two images of Joni Edelman, author of the aforementioned title and accompanying post.

The first picture revealed a tan Joni, rocking a blue and teal striped bikini, and flaunting 6 pack abs. Picture number two showed an undeniably noticeably different Joni. Same brilliant smile, but noticeably heavier, despite the fact her body was concealed by a shapeless blue and white horizontally striped dress, and denim jacket.

I read the article. Soul searched. And then read it again. My heart felt heavy.

The body Joni inhabited in the first picture required her to severely restrict calories, exercise obsessively, and deny herself sleep. Joni realized this lifestyle did not equate to happiness. The second picture, where Joni was considerably heavier, represented health and happiness.

Joni’s message was clear,

“Happiness does not require thinness. Fatness does not presume sadness.”

This is what got me thinking. And please understand that it is not my intention to judge. I do not pretend to know the lifestyle Joni is currently living. I’m just thinking. (Gotta love blogging…these are typically the thoughts I kept locked up inside my head…safe and sound…where no one could hear them, or read them…)

Let me begin by saying that I understand, and I could not agree with Joni more. Been there, done that. Body size most certainly does not determine happiness. At my lowest weight, I had been incredibly unhappy. But, I had also been incredibly unhappy at my highest.

It was the reference to the two extremes that troubled me, as either could be indicative of a problem.  Why fat or skinny? Whatever happened to “normal” or “average”? Better yet, what is normal or average?

According to the National Center of Health Statistics: the “average” American female stands 5’4” and weighs 164.7 pounds, equating to a BMI of 28. (A BMI of 18-24 is considered healthy.) The “average” American male is 5’9” tall, and weighs 191 pounds, giving him a BMI of 28 as well.

If we are going to utilize BMI’s, “average” isn’t even healthy. At least not if you live in the United States, where the average BMI is not only outside of the desired range, but also the second highest in the world.

Okay then, perhaps we should strive for the “ideal”.

Kerri Johnson,associate professor in communication studies and psychology at UCLA, ran a study where test subjects were instructed to identify what they perceived as being the “average”, ideal woman. Test subjects chose thinner women than reality, having BMI’s of a little over 18.

Consequently, I feel it’s fair to say ideal is also problematic.

Johnson goes on to say, “Our mental representation of the average woman is more extreme than anything you will see in Vogue,” she said. “And this happens by age 5.”

So average isn’t good. Ideal isn’t good.

Perhaps we need to focus on health.

I believe there is a direct correlation between health and happiness. But first, we need to understand that healthy “looks” different for each individual. And there isn’t a “one size fits all” when it comes to what we eat or how we exercise. You need to understand what makes your body thrive. Hence, my “shade of gray”. My middle ground.

The problem for some, is that “healthy” requires responsibility…a level of accountability for actions or inactions. Compare taking care of your body to taking care of your child. You would never succumb to every demand or desire your child has, as you know it would be detrimental to their overall wellbeing.  The same can be said of your body.

Healthy requires you to love and respect your body at whatever stage of your wellness journey you are currently in. Easier said than done, I know. But I truly believe that loving and respecting your body, will positively impact how well you take care of it.

Healthy doesn’t require restricting your calories to an insanely low number, or eating only vegetables, but it doesn’t mean eating whatever you want, either. Healthy requires an awareness of the nutrition the foods you eat are providing your body, and the ability to choose mindfully. Eating real food is beneficial to your health. Eating real food makes you feel good!

Healthy doesn’t require hours of intense exercise every day, but it doesn’t mean being sedentary either. Healthy requires you to move your body. Moderate exercise most days of the week is beneficial to your well being. Exercise makes you feel good!

Healthy doesn’t require surviving on a limited amount of sleep, but it doesn’t mean sleeping your life away either. Healthy requires a solid 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep allows your body to rejuvenate and repair itself. Adequate sleep makes you feel good!

So how about this…focus on your health—shoot for size “healthy” and experience the side effect—happiness.

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2 thoughts on “Hey! What About Shades of Gray?

  1. I love this! I’ve felt a lot of the same mixed emotions with some of the body positive messages I’ve been seeing, but was having a hard time articulating it. My issue is definitely with the extremes…like the only two options are “anorexic and sad” or “overweight and fabulous”. I totally agree with you…where is the middle ground! I’m not stick thin, but do eat healthy 80% of the time and exercise regularly. I think I am healthy, happy, and have a relatively positive body image. I worry that by going from one extreme to another society is encouraging people to stop trying to be healthy.

    Like

    • Thank you, Betty! I completely agree with you…extremes are dangerous! The world needs more healthy role models like you! Keep up the good fight and thank you so much for your comment! I love the interaction!

      Like

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