Traditional Wellness Wisdom

Liberate your health: step away from the scale

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scale

In the last few months, I haven’t had a scale in my house. Prior to that, I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t own one. During the early months of this year, my family spent time packing and preparing to move into a brand new residence. In the course of that move, we purged A LOT of our belongings including books, papers, clothing, electronic equipment, furniture, and yes … our scale. For some people, this event may be difficult to fathom. Why would anyone throw out a perfectly good scale?

At first I wasn’t happy when my husband told me he’d donated it to charity. We’d had the scale for about 15 years and it was still in good condition. My husband is not usually hesitant to purge stuff from our house. I do have to admit, like many other people, we do have a lot of stuff. Much of this stuff sits around and doesn’t get put to use. In my head though, somehow the scale just didn’t seem to fit that category.

Then my husband started saying to me, “Maybe not having a scale won’t be so bad.” Those words marinated in my head for awhile. Then I started wondering if maybe he wasn’t onto something.

Cultural myths and flawed dietary guidelines impact our perception of our bodies and our health

Over the last decade I’ve become increasingly aware of how our cultural identity is heavily connected to counting fat grams, calories, and watching our weight. When we go to the doctor, we are usually weighed at the beginning of a visit. I can’t count how many discussions I’ve listened to from friends and family who feel under stress to lose unwanted pounds they’ve gained. It seems this topic of discussion is at the very center of our lives, relentlessly.

Body shaming is prevalent in our culture too. And not just for those who experience weight challenges. My entire life I’ve endured judgement because I’m “skinny”, being told I’m “lucky” or that I have been “blessed with good genes”. People assume that because I’ve really had problems being overweight that I’m just naturally thin and automatically healthy.

But that isn’t necessarily the case.

How my weight issues led to a “lightbulb moment”

Unlike many of the other people I knew who were constantly trying to lose pounds, my problem was the exact opposite. For most of my life, I was always one of the smallest people in my social and family circles. I was and still am regularly reminded of this fact. What some people may not know is that I spent years trying to gain weight, to no avail. Looking back, I can see now that my diet and lifestyle had something to do with this situation. Even though my mother cooked “from scratch” when I was growing up, I did eat a lot of industrial and processed foods. I also spent 20 years of my life as a fairly heavy social drinker. During those years, I regularly experienced symptoms that indicated something wasn’t right including nausea, abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea, frequent infections, colds, and flus, headaches, and general malaise.

When I was 7 months pregnant with my first and only child, my appendix ruptured and my son was born 9 weeks premature. My doctors didn’t know what was wrong, and it wasn’t until I was wheeled into exploratory surgery and near death that they learned of my perforated appendix. Shortly after this incident, I learned I had gallstones. My doctor recommended removing my gallbladder, and 7 months later I followed his recommendation. Following this second surgery in 8 months, I spent years feeling unwell and trying to unravel my spiraling health issues that my doctors couldn’t solve. Since my family started consuming real, traditional foods nearly 10 years ago, I have also realized that lacking real, traditional, nutrient-dense foods for a majority of my life impacted my well-being and ability to maintain healthy weight.

In our culture, we hold an impossible expectation of perfection. We constantly compare ourselves to celebrities, athletes, and models. We are expected to look like them, and all the while eating a diet of highly processed foods, which are recommended by the USDA guidelines and subsidized by the federal government. We are told to eat more fruits, vegetables and grains, and exercise more.

We are also told to avoid the very foods that help to maintain balanced blood sugar levels, mood and behavior, and provide essential nutrients: grassfed meats, poultry, and eggs, raw, cultured dairy foods, seafood, organ meats. And yet, these are foods that heal our guts and provide our bodies with critical nutrients for maintaining optimal wellness and weight levels. Most tragic of all, we are told to avoid saturated fats, which have been demonized for decades by the medical and health industries, and the government.

This, to me, is insanity.

Thankfully, these false claims are being put to rest and the truth is coming out. I recommend reading Nina Teicholz’s The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet via Amazon affiliation.

I pose that along with counting fat grams and calories while eating processed products and over-exercising, another part of this insanity may be keeping a scale in your house so that you can constantly monitor your weight. I really wonder if this isn’t an integral part of the starvation, over-medicalized and must-exercise-more model that seems to permeate our discussions about health, but clearly isn’t making much of a dent in the incidence of chronic disease.

I know that in some cases, people do need scales to keep track of weight loss or gain due to chronic illness or other health concern. I would never suggest that you throw out your scale regardless of your health condition. However, I can testify that in the last year of my life I’ve had more stress than I’ve ever experienced at once in my life: the death of my mother in February as well as 10 other people since July of 2015, moving to a new home, and losing some important relationships. Through all of this I’ve continued to eat a real food diet and support my health in other ways including avoiding toxins, getting regular sun exposure, walking, hiking, yoga, and meditation for stress relief, and keeping the most regular sleep schedule as possible.

Although it took some years of persistence on my diet and adhering to healthier lifestyle habits, eventually, I was able to put on weight and I’ve pretty much been at that number, give or take 5 pounds, for the last 5+ years.  On a recent trip I took to visit family, I decided to check my weight on a scale in one of the bathrooms where I was staying. I realize that not all scales will register the same weight, but I was within 5 pounds of the weight I recalled the last time I weighed myself – which was at least 6 months ago. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I was able to put on the desired weight and stay more or less at that same number for all those years after committing to those changes.

Do genes really tell the story of our health?

Back to the comment on genetics. Genetics don’t work the way the conventional medical establishment has described. The implication is that we have no choice over the diseases our bodies develop.  That is simply not the case.  The marked rise we’ve seen in chronic disease over the last 100 years has a cause, and our diets and lifestyles are culprits. 

People still comment on how “fortunate” I am to have such good genes. I have multiple family members who have been diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid disorders, and other conditions related to Metabolic Disorder, and I don’t have any of those challenges. About 10 years ago I had a wide panel blood test performed for the first time in my life, and the results showed that I was becoming insulin-resistant. A few years later after changing my diet, blood tests showed my glucose levels were normal and signs of insulin-resistance were gone.   I honestly don’t believe my genes have so much to do with it as the way I’ve been living my life.

For more on this topic, read this eye-opening article from Levi Quackenboss.  I also recommend the book The Genechanger by Dr. Mitchell L. Gaynor, M.D. via Amazon affiliation. His book offers some excellent recommendations about sourcing food, although I don’t agree with his advice to eat low-fat dairy or other foods. My family consumes full-fat, cultured dairy and other foods that aren’t altered in any way from nature because the nutrients in those foods are found in the fat. When you remove those nutrients, you’ve altered the food and thus eliminated important nutrients for health.

Not everyone will have the same experience as me. Each person has different variables that affect well-being, including chronic health issues. Maybe throwing out your scale is not right for you. We all have choices to make. But remember, we are not bound by every last rule or conventions of society. We can challenge the belief systems and “facts” we’ve been convinced to espouse or hold as truths. We can decide to make changes in our health habits and lifestyles if something we’ve been doing doesn’t seem to be serving us, and try something a different approach.

So, what I’m saying is this: if you have had weight challenges – whether it be that you cannot seem to lose it or keep it on – maybe there are some considerations you haven’t entertained before that could make a difference. Maybe the foods you’ve been eating aren’t supporting your body. Maybe what you’ve been eating isn’t even food and you need more nutrition. Maybe, for whatever reason, the stress you’ve been under has caused a situation where you don’t have time to prepare nutritious, real foods, and you’re so over extended that you aren’t getting enough movement in your daily routine, stress relief, or rest. The point is, all of these factors affect our well-being. It’s not just about counting calories, fat grams, or weighing ourselves. Nutrients, lifestyle changes, and ultimately, happiness are important too.

So, I wholeheartedly challenge you, if you are willing to try something completely different: throw out your scale. And maybe, just maybe, think about what you are putting in your body and how it might be affecting your weight, your mood, and your well-being.

What changes have you noticed in your health as a result of altering your diet and lifestyle?

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