The other night my husband was telling me about a problem he’d been having at work. He’s in technology sales and serves as the middle man for a variety of technology and cabling products. He told me he had placed an order for a specific product and the shipment was running way behind schedule. He told me he was feeling like a failure because he couldn’t get this product to his customer on time. He talked to one of his friends about the problem, and this friend gave him some advice that blew my mind.
He walked my husband through each of the steps that he took to get the customer his order on time:
“Did you place the order in a timely manner?”
“Did you order the correct parts?”
“Did you follow up on the shipment to find out why it was late?”
“Did you notify your customer to let him know the status of his order?”
Then his friend looked at him and said “Well, then you’re a success.”
Baffled, my husband asked him what he meant. His friend explained, “You did everything you had in your power to get that shipment on time. You did all the things your job required to the best of your ability. You don’t have control of the outcome, but you do have control over your actions. You did everything there was to do, and you did it well, therefore, you’re a success.”
I haven’t been able to get that conversation out of my mind. This is not how I typically think of success. I look at outcomes, not input, and so often feel like a failure in the things I pursue. No wonder I never feel good enough. I’m focused on the things I can’t control rather than the things I can.
As I sat down to write this post today, I began to consider how our health would change if we viewed it in terms of our input instead of weight outcomes. I suddenly had a lightbulb moment that THIS is why weight should not be the focus of our health goals!
All in all, weight is an outcome. An outcome of our genes, our environments, socioeconomic factors, and our behaviors. We have NO control over our genes, and limited control over our environments and socioeconomic status.
However, we do have control over our behaviors. Focusing on weight loss as the only determinant of health success will always leave us feeling like failures, because all in all, we will never be in complete control.
That doesn’t mean we can’t improve our health, but the reality is that bodies come in all different shapes and sizes. Body diversity is a beautiful thing to be celebrated! Unfortunately, media and culture have taught us that some types of bodies are better than others. This is discrimination, and something we need to fight against. So often we determine our “success” at getting healthy by our body weight and the number on the scale instead of looking at the lifestyle changes we’ve actually made.
Many people adopt numerous health-promoting behaviors like eating balanced meals, getting more sleep, drinking water instead of soda, or practicing meditation, and yet still go to bed feeling like failures because they “haven’t lost the weight’’. However, when we look at their input and the steps they’ve taken, we see they’ve done everything right. They are successful.
I think this is a great example of the Health at Every Size paradigm shift.
Imagine a group of people all adopt identical health-promoting behaviors. They all eat the same healthy meals, exercise the same way, and get the same amount of sleep for 3 months. At the end of three months, some lose weight, some gain weight, and some stay the same. At the end of those three months, are the only ones who lost weight successful? No! They were ALL successful! They all put in the right input. They are all successes. In addition, let’s look at what happened on the inside. The more unseen aspects of health, such as cholesterol levels, blood glucose, blood pressure, heart rate, stress levels, and metabolic rate would all be positively impacted.
We may not have complete control over our body weight, but the healthy behaviors we practice will always improve our well-being. As we enter another season of Scale Back Alabama, let’s redefine success.
What if we pay more attention to our input rather than the output number on the scale? What if we focus on how healthy behaviors make us FEEL rather than how they make us look? Let’s shift our focus inward. Let’s celebrate body diversity and that healthy living can be pursued at ANY weight or body size. Let’s celebrate our successes! Let’s work on accepting the things we cannot change, having the courage to change the things we can, and the having wisdom to know the difference.
Jenna Le Kayworth, MS, RDN, LD
Jenna Le is a passionate dietitian who believes that true health is found independent of body size. She believes in helping others find balance with eating and movement, enjoying all types of foods while journeying toward overall wellness. Jenna Le aims to help people improve their relationships with food, exercise, and their bodies by focusing on holistic nutrition principles that address both body and mind. She believes that by improving these relationships, people are better equipped to sustain lasting wellness. Jenna Le loves to help others find ways to adopt health behaviors into their own unique lives while remaining true to the things they love most. Her vision is for a wellness industry that focuses more on behaviors and inner health than on outside appearances. Jenna Le loves to read, write, spend time outside, and enjoy her husband Thomas, and their spoiled cat Milo.