I just want to be healthier.
I hear this a lot, from clients and people in the world. That desire to be healthier seems to motivate a lot of behaviors: running marathons, going to CrossFit classes, giving up sugar or soda or dairy or white carbohydrates.
But here's what I often find, when I'm able to probe a bit deeper:
"I want to be healthier" is often a cover for "I want to be thinner."
We run that marathon because hopefully we'll get so "healthy" that we'll lose a couple of pounds.
We want to give up sugar because hopefully we'll get so "healthy" that our jeans will fit again.
For the record, I think it's fine to want to be thinner. Although I strongly object to the societal pressures that women receive to be thin, I'm not going to send the body positivity police to your door for wanting to lose some weight.
But let's call a spade a spade. If you want to lose weight, let's acknowledge that explicitly.
Why? Because if you're not telling yourself the truth, you won't be able to honestly and accurately prioritize your needs.
This "prioritization" thing matters. We all may have many different needs, and at certain points those needs may come into conflict with each other. But if you aren't about about what you actually prioritize, you're less likely to feel satisfied.
For example, let's say that you want to lose weight, and you also want to be healthy. Great! But how do those two compare to each other in terms of priority? If you got much healthier by running a marathon but ended up gaining 10 pounds in the process, for example, how would you feel about it? Your answer to that question tells you a lot about your true motivations.
Or what about your desire for weight loss versus your desire to:
Trust yourself around food?
Honor your own hunger and fullness?
Eat foods you love?
Stop thinking about portions/calories/points all the time?
Go to restaurants and eat on vacation without worrying?
Feel like your weight is stable without you having to "do" anything?
Feel good in your body?
It's worth acknowledging that it's possible to achieve different goals simultaneously. You might feel better in your body as you get healthier, for example. But at some point, there will be trade-offs for everything. If you focus on losing weight, for example, you might need to stop eating foods you love, which might make you feel deprived and more likely to eat compulsively in the long run.
So when push comes to shove, what do you choose?
And if you're saying that "health" is your top priority, is that really true? Or is "health" a code word for "thinness" (especially since you can be healthier without losing any weight)?
Again, there's no right answer, necessarily. But there is a truthful answer, for you.
Have you ever used "health" as a cover for "I want to lose weight?" Let me know in the comments!
Katie spent years "planning" her eating and being frustrated with herself when she ruined her plans by eating too much. She eventually discovered how to trust herself around food -- read more about her story here, or get her free ebook.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.