Overcoming Motherhood

Season 1 Episode 3: "But, I want to be healthy for my kids!"

September 09, 2021 Gillian Yuan
Overcoming Motherhood
Season 1 Episode 3: "But, I want to be healthy for my kids!"
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode we talk about what health truly is, the myths and truths about BMI, weight setpoint and Health at Every Size.  I let you in on 3 things you can do to truly have Health at Every Size and in your current body!
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The thoughts and opinions discussed in this podcast are solely the opinion of Gillian and/or her guests and for information/ educational purposes only. Gillian is not a licensed health or psychology practitioner. Please consult your healthcare providers prior to utilizing any information presented in the podcast.

Hello Mom-Friends, and welcome to this week’s episode of The Motherhood UnDieted Podcast.  I’m your host, Gillian Yuan, Intuitive Eating and Body Acceptance Coach for Moms who want to get off the diet roller-coaster and live fully in their current body!

“But I want to be healthy to be around for my kids”!  If I had a dollar for every time my clients told me this, I would be able to buy a private tropical island!!

It’s normal for you to want to be healthy to be around for your kids growing up.  I also want to be around to see my son grow-up and possibly be a Grandma!  The problem is that Diet Culture and patriarchy have told us that to be healthy, we need to change our bodies, to shrink our bodies.  Living in a smaller body doesn’t necessarily constitute health, just ask anyone suffering from an eating disorder or going through cancer treatments.  

In this episode, I will talk about how the Diet and health industries have lead us to believe that to be thin is to be healthy with the over-simplified and mis-use of the Body Mass Index, how our bodies naturally have a biological mechanism to keep us at our optimal weight, if we’d only let it, and what does make up Health at every size and strategies to begin this process in your current body.  

So let’s dive in!

The myth that Body Mass Index equates health:

  • The BMI equation of weight in kg divided by height, squared was developed by a mathematician in the 1930s by Adolphe Quetelet.  It was later used in the US and Canada to measure people’s health risks for doctors and insurance companies, based on a study of European men.  
  • The BMI can’t measure someone’s health habits or health protective habits.  These are as important as someone’s weight to height ratio. 
  • The BMI measurement is flawed, because it can’t measure the differences in body composition such as muscle mass to body fat.  Muscle weighs more than fat, so those who have a higher proportion of muscle to fat, like athletes, would have a higher BMI than someone of the same weight and height with a higher fat ratio. 
  • The BMI is not an accurate measurement for anyone outside of the original test subjects who were European men.  
  • BMI is not an accurate calculation of health or health risk for many people including the BIPOC communities, Pregnant and nursing Moms as they have higher fat to provide nourishment to their babies, and athletes, to name a few.  
  • To this day I don’t know why doctors use the BMI of a Mom to indicate birth risk, when at least 35lbs are from the baby and life giving structures of pregnancy!  
  • So if the BMI is not a great indicator of health nor health risk for adults, it also is not a great indicator for our kids.  Kids bodies change constantly, going through many growth spurts, so please don’t let a doctor’s impression of your child’s health be based on weight or BMI.  

Did you know that our bodies were naturally designed with biological mechanisms to keep us at our individual best weight?  It’s called our setpoint weight. 

  • This is the weight our body naturally aims for
  • Our bodies biological mechanisms work tirelessly to keep or bring our body back to this setpoint weight
  • This is the reason diets don’t work, long term.  Dieting messes with these biological mechanisms such as hunger and fullness hormones that drive us to eat.  
  • When these mechanisms are broken, from dieting, our body works even harder to force your body back to this setpoint, and often increases your setpoint weight to protect itself from another possible diet or “famine state”.

Our Natural Set point weight is the one that you maintain when you listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, when you don’t fixate on your weight or food habits, and the weight you keep returning to in between diets. 

Many Moms ask me how can they return to their setpoint weight, or decrease their setpoint after years of dieting.  The truth is, I’m not really sure your setpoint weight will go back to what it was when you were 20, however, nor is your body the same as it was when you were 20 pre-kids as it is now after having kids, and maybe even entering the next stage of hormonal development, perimenopause.  

However, the way to allow your body (and mind) to be at peace, is to start honouring your body’s hunger, fullness and satisfaction cues.  Without making it into a new hunger/fullness diet.  This simply means, eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full AND satisfied, allowing yourself to eat unconditionally and being compassionate with yourself while you learn this new way of responding to your body’s needs.

This brings us to the last point:

Health at Every Size or HAES.

HAES has been around for decades and was made more popular by author Dr. Lindo Bacon in their book Health at Every Size: THe surprising Truth about your weight.

This approach to health recognizes that there are many more determinants of health than simply diet and exercise.  In fact, diet and exercise only make up 15% of what has been determined to impact health by the WHO.  Other determinants of health include 

  • Income, social status, employment, working conditions, racism & oppression, childhood experiences, physical environments, social supports and coping skills, healthy behaviours, biological and genetics, and access to healthcare.

There is more to health than your weight alone!

Some of the determinants of health mention our mindset and mental health.  I believe this to be very true, and it is one of the reasons I decided to ditch the diet-cycles for good.  

There are 3 main steps that you can take to start honouring your health at every size.

1- Adopt a weight inclusive mindset, not just for others but also for yourself.  This includes accepting and respecting diversity in body shapes.  

As Moms, we can work to accept our bodies and those of our kids and others without judgement.  If someone makes negative comments about their body or someone else’s, we can normalize body diversity instead of agreeing with what they say.  

2- Eat for wellbeing:  This includes eating based on hunger, fullness, nutritional needs and pleasure instead of  diets or externally regulated eating plans focussed on weight control.  This includes developing an Intuitive way of eating.  

As Moms we can learn to apply the principles of IE and un-couple one’s eating habits and preferences from their moral worth.  This can start with us and our kids.

3- Life Enhancing MOvement:  This includes doing activities that are enjoyable at your current size and supporting others, including your kids to do the same.  Without the pressure of using movement to change body shape, size or weight.  

As moms we can incorporate movement and activities that we actually enjoy and do them with our kids.  This shows them that movement doesn’t have to be gruelling and painful or used to allow eating certain forbidden foods. Or as punishment for eating them.  This also shows that movement is more sustainable when it’s something that is enjoyable and easily incorporated into daily life.

Take a moment and feel yourself in your body.  Ask yourself what you need right now.  It could be food, water, movement, deep breathing, rest.  Anything.  

Now, think about giving yourself these things in your current body.  How does that make you feel?  If you feel you need to change your body before giving yourself what you need, you are not alone.  In fact, this is what Diet Culture counts on.  Instead, give yourself a big hug, and tell her that you will give her what she needs right now, not when she loses 10lbs, or when she fits into those pre-covid jeans, but right now.  By honouring your needs right now, you are beginning your journey to health at every size. 

Remember Mom-Friends, you are worthy of love, health and happiness at any size and in your current body.  Join me next week as we discuss more along this journey of food freedom and body acceptance.  Have a wonderful day!