Rule 2: Maintain a Healthy Weight
From Opening Hearts: Chapter 5’s Five Cardinal Rules for Healthy Living; Weight – The Shape of Your Physical Self
Weight literally shapes the person you see in the mirror. An underweight emaciated person appears gaunt or even skeletal while an obese person often resembles an apple or a pear. Neither person appears to be optimally healthy. A man or woman with a balanced weight looks more vital and healthy, and often is. While human beings come in many different sizes and shapes, it’s usually easy to see when we are close to our ideal weight.
Every person has a set point for weight that is best suited for his or her physiological makeup. Health professionals may often estimate this set point by using the Body-Mass Index (BMI), a height-to-weight ratio that estimates the amount of fat in a person’s body. While the BMI is often reasonably accurate, it is not a perfect measure and doesn’t necessarily account for differences in frame or muscle mass which could obscure someone’s true fat content. However, added with other measures such as waist circumference, the BMI can be a good starting point for determining the correct weight range for a given individual.
For example, someone with a large frame and a lower-range BMI score or someone with a small frame and a very low BMI score may be underweight and thus not be getting the nutrients needed to manage optimal or even functional health. In the mid-BMI range, that person balances enough food and activity to maintain ideal physical condition. A person with a high-BMI range can often have unhealthy amounts of fat stored. However, some people with high BMIs may simply have more muscle or a large frame so other more direct measures of overall fat would be appropriate to add then. Optimal weight correlates strongly with optimal health so it is important to understand this measure for your body.
Optimal weight is achieved with good nutrition (rule 1) and exercise (rule 3). Unfortunately, the lack of adequate exercise coupled with the Standard American Diet (SAD) with its too many calories and too few real nutrients creates a society that is just that—sad. The SAD diet is only partly responsible for America’s growing health crisis. Personal choice and commitment to health are important factors needed to stem the obesity tide.
However, the media bears some responsibility as well. Our current media landscape glorifies anorexia while encouraging gluttony making the problems we have today predictable. Yet the extensive weight-related neuroses, widespread eating disorders, and chronic obesity—and all the medical, social, and spiritual consequences that accompany them—are not beyond our control. Things really don’t have to be this way.
The solutions are simple, at least on a personal level. If you use more calories than you take in, you’ll lose weight; if you take in more calories than you use, you’ll gain weight. To attain and maintain your ideal weight, do the following:
- Eat better and unless you’re starving, eat less.
- Exercise carefully and unless you’re risking injury, exercise more. Listen to your body’s signals but resist any urge to be sedentary because if you don’t use it, you will lose it.
With commitment, you can accomplish wonders for yourself. A healthy diet combined with even moderate exercise will reduce most types of body weight. For the average person, a modest change of diet and activity can quickly mend an unhealthy body and reverse many chronic diseases.
Even if you have major medical limitations, are severely overweight, or both, eating a nutritionally balanced diet and adding moderate exercise can make a noticeable difference in your physical health. In many cases, healthy eating and adequate exercise can restore your body to its set point within months, perhaps even weeks. So next let’s look at exercise more closely.
[Footnote 41 Some forms of obesity come from the malfunctioning of certain glands. This is not a common problem yet it sometimes offers a convenient excuse for people without this issue or who call themselves “big boned”. Most often, excess weight is the result of taking in more calories than are burned. But to be sure, a professional diagnosis to rule out or treat any metabolic disorders is advised. If you are severely overweight or have any medical conditions, please consult a doctor or nutritionist to aid your weight loss.]
Up next: Rule 3 – Exercise – Good Nutrition’s Essential Partner