Beyond The Scale - Defining True Whole Body Health And Wellness

13 min read JAN 15, 2024

What does it mean to be healthy?

For many years now, the notion of health has seemingly been transformed into a looks-based evaluation.

He’s got abs, so he’s healthy.

She’s got curves, so she’s unhealthy.

Have you ever heard or shared those sentiments - openly, to others, or to yourself?

I fear, as a society, we’ve been conditioned to view each other as books, judging one another by our covers (namely weight), for so long that the actual concept of true whole body health and wellness, has become warped.

The thing is, when it comes to health, just like books, you truly cannot judge people by their cover.

The perception of health, viewed primarily through the lens of appearance, is not only misleading, but it can damage one’s mental and emotional wellbeing, even contributing to practices or habits which cause detriment to our bodies as a whole.

So, let’s put an end to that here and now!

Join me today as we explore what it means to be healthy, understanding that health looks different for everyone.

Does Weight Indicate Health?

When I think about the relationship between weight and health, this is when I see how disordered and well, truly sad, my own perceptions of wellness have been for most of my life.

And, while this is a personal pondering, judging by my social media feed, several conversations I’ve had with friends over the years, and multiple books, articles, and stories I’ve read, I feel like I can say with confidence that many of you can likely relate.

When I was in my early 20’s I had just finished college, moved, got married, and started a new job all in the span of a few weeks.

During this time I was also fainting 2-3 times a day on average.

As this phenomenon continued, my doctor ordered every test under the sun. I can’t think of one area of my health that he didn’t pour over with a fine tooth comb.

His findings?

Every last thing proved completely normal, completely healthy.

Eventually he determined, through sheer hypothesis, that stress was at the root of these episodes, and thankfully, over time, the fainting subsided.

But, there’s one thing that shocked me more than any test, finding, or lack thereof…my doctor looked me straight in the eye and said, “you are quite possibly the healthiest young woman I’ve had in my office, and that’s why I’m so puzzled by this.”

At the time, I was (per the BMI chart) at least 30 pounds overweight. In fact, (per the BMI chart) I’d been overweight since roughly the 4th grade.

Judging my body, even my health, by my weight was all I knew. And in full disclosure, such judgments, external and internal, ruled my life.

All I ever knew was body shaming. All I ever told myself was how unhealthy I was, strictly, fully, and only because of the size of my clothes and the number on the scale.

Yet, here I sat before this medical professional, someone who had checked my blood work multiple times, someone who was currently reviewing every heart, liver, lung, brain, bone, GI test, and more right in front of me, and his conclusion was that I was completely and fully healthy.

“There’s not a single number even close to an unhealthy range on any test we’ve run.”

And, I can still feel my response leaving my lips, “but, I’m overweight.”

His reply, “honey, you are incredibly healthy.”

More than 20 years later, I wish I could tell you I let his expert words and diagnosis dissipate the incorrect notions in my mind of weight being a direct correlation of health. But, like many others, this false association was and is a very hard one to shake.

Can weight indicate health problems or issues? Sometimes, yes.

However, viewing body weight as a direct indication of health is, well, not healthy.

But, but, but…obesity is linked to multiple chronic diseases. True.

But, but, but…being severely underweight can mean you’re malnourished and may cause other health concerns. True.

And, that’s not what we’re talking about here today.

What I hope you take away from our discussion today is not the but, but, but’s regarding the outliers on this continuum, but the truth of health, namely that healthy doesn’t necessarily look like the painting we’ve constructed as a society for so many years now.

One of the biggest tools in the field of medicine which measures weight as it pertains to health is the BMI chart.

I think the first time I questioned the validity of this chart, personally, was when I realized that some body builders were considered morbidly obese by its standards.

Yes, typical bodybuilders, while in competition, commonly have less than 10% (some closer to 6% or less) body fat, yet these individuals, by weight and height alone, would be classified as entirely unhealthy.

While I’m not fully demonizing the BMI chart, this tool has definitely been used by medical professionals, and others, to conclude the state of one’s health based solely on weight.

So, let’s consider this notion in a broad sense.

Just as the BMI chart is a poor indicator of health, based solely on weight, any determination of good or poor health based entirely on weight is equally erroneous.

  • Weight does not take into account a person’s body fat percentage.
  • Weight alone does not consider the amount of muscle a person has.
  • Weight does not factor in the distribution of fat in a person’s body.

One expert described the BMI chart as wholly imperfect, detailing a more accurate picture of health in the following way: “BMI is a measure of body fat based on weight and height. [But] we need to use the BMI in conjunction with a variety of different factors - sex, gender, ethnicity, and muscle mass.”

In other words, zero in on those factors: sex, gender, ethnicity, muscle mass…these all play a part in your individual body type and shape.

But, that’s not how we regularly view bodies is it?

No, we like to categorize body shapes into a few types or groups.

Ah, but one trip to the beach can quickly flip such a notion on its head.

Most of us are in bathing suits at the beach, so we’re basically down to the bare minimum as it pertains to body coverings. And, in this scenario, when you scour the shoreline, do you know what’s abundantly evident?

There’s all kinds of people, all kinds of bodies, in this world. We are wonderfully, and perfectly, unique from one body to the next.

But, do you know what’s not evident when scanning this coastal canvas of body shapes…a true picture of each person’s health.

Experts agree…

  • you can be overweight and metabolically healthy
  • you can be underweight and metabolically healthy
  • body size is determined by much more than diet and exercise
  • the scale is not always the best indicator of health

So, if the number on the scale, or the number on your clothing tag, isn’t the best indicator of health…what is?

What Does It Mean To Be Healthy?

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing.”

Another definition regards health as “the absence of disease.”

Yet another source describes health as a set of actions rather than a state of being.

And, this last description is one that I have found to be most consistent with prioritizing and fostering optimal health.

I once heard someone comment that perfect knowledge or perfect wisdom can never be achieved as there’s more to learn and know with each new day of life.

Health is a lot like this.

We can be absent of disease, feel incredible physically, mentally, and emotionally, but in the next moment, we can eat something that doesn’t support the health of our body, and we feel ill as a result of this.

Then, any parent of a newborn can tell you, while they may be otherwise healthy, a few weeks without consistent, restful sleep can make you feel truly awful.

So, is health fleeting, or is the feeling of health situational?

The thing is, health isn’t solely based on how we feel in a moment, but rather how we feel over a period of time.

And, as we discussed above, oftentimes this has little to do with weight.

When you fuel your body with nutritious foods, when you get regular, adequate sleep, when you are properly hydrated, when you practice gratefulness and seek out the positive things in life, and when you move your body regularly…you are fueling health.

Contrarily, when you consume negative input, live off of fast food and processed sugars, forgo sleep for television binges or phone scrolling, and regularly choose the couch over enjoyable physical activity, you are not fueling health.

Health is said to be both proactive and preventative.

We prevent dis-ease (disease) and we facilitate good health in our day to day choices, practices, and habits.

And, this is exactly why health is often referenced in terms of lifestyle as opposed to a single, detailed definition.

For instance, homeostasis is another term often associated with good health. And, this simply refers to a state of balance within the body.

When all of your body systems, organs, tissues, and cells are in balance, it can be said that your body is experiencing optimal health.

However, this balance can easily shift with the addition or removal of healthy physical practices, a proper mindset, or even an emotional disturbance.

So we conclude yet again, health is achieved and made up of the many small, yet mighty, things we do each and every day to achieve and maintain whole body health.

And, in regards to how weight truly is not the best indicator of this, I found this description from a medical professional to be far superior than anything I could express, so I wanted to share it with you in its entirety:

“When your body is healthy, you have the energy to spend time with your friends, participate in sports [activities], and concentrate on school or work. Don’t rely on charts, formulas, or tables to dictate what’s right for you. Every shape can be healthy if you eat balanced meals full of nutritious foods and enjoy regular physical activity.”

Your body, my body, our bodies are worthy of health. And, this is achieved and maintained through the things we do, or don’t do, in our day to day lives.

We must escape the snare that seems to permeate our society which proclaims weight as a primary indicator of health.

Instead, realizing that the body weight right for you, for me, for each of us is the weight which allows us to feel strong, energized, happy, and well.

This realization takes into account a proper understanding of the fact that sex, gender, genetics, and ethnicity play a large role in determining our body type or shape while also fully recognizing that we have the power, through our personal practices and habits, to fully facilitate, achieve, and maintain health.

So, before we conclude today, let’s quickly look at a few specifics, some ways to ensure we’re proactively and preventatively promoting true health.

How To Support Whole Body Health

True health is multifaceted. And, true health is interconnective.

That’s why achieving and maintaining health often stems from a proper mindset.

When we view our bodies properly, this puts us in the best position to healthily care for our body.

A friend of mine often reminds me, and what a powerful sentiment this is - “we need to be grateful for our bodies!”

Did your body allow you to take a walk with your dog today?

Did your body support you through a grueling workout, a long day at work, a tiresome night with a newborn?

Thank your body. Be thankful for your body.

Then, from this place of positivity, this place of gratitude, view your body as a worthy vessel, one which deserves proper fuel and proper praise or celebration.

How can you fuel your body? How can you properly celebrate your body?

1- Food For Fuel, Food For Enjoyment

Choose nutritious, whole foods, regularly to support a healthy body and mind.

Sugar, processed foods, fried foods, and fast foods are a part of our lives, but for optimal health, seek to limit these items, including them in moderation.

Dr. Charles commonly has shared how he incorporates the 80/20 rule here.

This concept focuses on eating a variety of nutrient dense, whole foods, 80% of the time, then eating whatever you like 20% of the time.

Such a principle takes into account both the enjoyment of food as a part of life as well as the need for fueling our bodies properly.

2- Sleep Well

While you sleep, health is achieved.

Your body is very busy while you sleep, clearing out damaged cells, restoring needed balance, supporting brain function, and so much more.

So, seek to prioritize restful, healthy sleep.

Most experts recommend getting 7-9 hours of sleep nightly.

And, for best sleep, seek to cut out screen time a few hours before bed, keep your nighttime house temperature between 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit, limit foods close to bedtime, and try to adhere to a sleep schedule.

3- Hydrate For Health

The human body is said to be 60% water.

Water is essential for all body functions, down to the needed activities taking place (and keeping you alive) in your cells, so when you’re not properly hydrated, you’re not fueling the health of your body.

4- Love Your Body Through Movement

Movement or physical activity benefits your body in more ways than you can imagine. From mental health to a reduced risk of multiple diseases, from improved digestion, better sleep, even improved self esteem and so much more, moving your body each day goes a long way to facilitate health.

And, the best part about physical activity is that you can truly do you!

I have to admit, some of the foods that are the most nutritious, boasting the best healthy benefits for my body, are those which I just don’t like. And, I’m sure there are a few you can name which you avoid as well for this same reason.

But, when it comes to physical activity, the possibilities are truly endless.

A simple walk around the block has incredible health benefits.

Want to do more…

  • If you enjoy lifting weights, go for it.
  • Do you prefer roller skating? That’s a great way to stay active.
  • Feel like cranking some music and getting your groove on as you prepare a healthy meal for you and your family…groove on!
  • Want to explore the trail in the woods near your subdivision, that’s another great way to get moving.

A sedentary lifestyle is said to be one of the greatest detriments to health, so skip the excuses, love your body, and simply find something you truly enjoy doing that allows you to move more.

5- Healthy Mind, Healthy Body

We briefly mentioned the importance of mindset above, so I won’t labor this, but a healthy mindset is just as important as anything else when it comes to optimal health.

Daily affirmations and gratitude, mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises, and self-care can all help foster a proper, healthy mindset which in turn supports healthy habits and practices each and every day.

And, this proper mindset includes an appropriate view of your body in relation to health.

So, in closing, as you seek to incorporate or continue walking in the above habits to foster true whole body health, remember…

True body positivity is a love for your body and all it carries you through in this life.

And, a true love for your body prioritizes whole body health, not just weight.

I hope you’ll join me in skipping the criticism and unjust evaluations based on such a subjective bit of information (weight).

Instead, let’s celebrate all our bodies are capable of, fueling them with wholesome, nutritious foods and drinks (coffee anyone?), adequate rest, enjoyable activities, mindfulness, joyfulness, and true health!

Check out Lifeboost Coffee Espresso.

Medical Disclaimer
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Charles Livingston nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.


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