There’s an obesity epidemic, did you hear? We, as a nation (doesn’t matter which one), are getting fatter. Our children are obese. It’s costing us money, and health, and lifespan.

How true is this? Certainly, the numbers stack up. And yes, there’s a correlation between weight and health- as one goes up, the other often goes down. However, the fixation on weight as the sole indicator for health in first world countries is beginning to do more harm than good.

OK, who are we kidding? It’s downright destructive. It’s giving people the idea that it’s ok to judge someone and publicly lambaste, insult and embarrass them, based on physical appearance. It’s reinforcing major issues with body image. It’s leading us down a very dangerous path, where a person’s worth is determined by how they look and what they weigh, rather than how healthy they actually are, or who they are as a person. The only winner here are the guys in the diet industry and they’re making a killing.

What should the message be then? If we break it down to the most simple of things, we want to be healthy. We want to be able to move freely, have the energy to do the things we love, have the stamina to stay out all night or stay up with the kids. We want to be able to live life without the threat of heart attacks or medications or diabetes hanging over our heads. We want to be happy, pain-free, confident and comfortable. Is losing weight going to get us all this? Maybe. Maybe not.

A highly restricted diet won’t give us energy. Sudden weight loss isn’t going to suddenly extinguish our personal demons. Not eating won’t help us to be happy, or carefree. And, studies show the majority of diets don’t damn well work, so even if we lose weight, we put it back on and end up back where we started. So, what’s the answer?
Flip it on its head. What if, instead of losing weight for health benefits, we just went straight to the end game? What if we ate to lower blood pressure, increase our energy, fill us with nutrients and be kind to our pancreas? What if, by doing this, we lowered our blood pressure, increased our energy, enjoyed a new range of healthy foods we were eating and we stopped focusing on weight? Maybe we’d lose some. Maybe, just by focusing on what we gain, and looking at what we put into our diet rather than what we take out, we could inadvertently- and sustainably- shift some kilos? It wouldn’t matter.

Yes, it wouldn’t matter that we’d lost weight. All those things we wanted- health, energy, vibrancy- would be the focus of our motivation. By looking for the gains, by eliminating the shaming, guilt-inducing, failure-driven culture we adhere to, we’d be happier. If we can take the focus away from how we look and put it into how we feel, we might even stop judging others based on arbitrary standards. We might be kinder, less critical, more supportive. We might be happier.

Today, make a new goal. Instead of promising to cut out sugar, promise to eat more veggies. Promise to play outside with the kids. Promise to drink more water. Promise to look after your health- not so you look better, but so you feel better. Do it so you have the energy to run, the freedom to play and the longevity to see your kids grow old. Do it to set a good example, not a disordered one.

Do it for you.

Amy Hopkins

Amy is an ordinary girl from a medium sized town and does pretty normal things, most of the time. She likes coffee and red wine and books with dragons and swordfights in them. She loves to write and has a burning passion for health and equality and believes the two go hand in hand- you can’t look after others if you don’t look after yourself too. She’s using her words to make the world a better place for her three kids to grow up in, while dancing around the kitchen baking cookies with vegetables in them.