Let's take a minute to talk about weight at UNC Chapel Hill.
There's two main ways people tend to think about weight and health.
The first is like this image - where people have the belief that weight is something to master. That if we have enough self control and knowledge and the right resources, everyone should be
able to reach this ideal weight norm.
The second idea about weight is the weight inclusive approach which is the belief that well-being can happen at all sizes and weights. And instead of focusing on weight as the goal, focus on the process of becoming healthy - like moving our body more, eating a variety of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, managing our stress - and in doing so, we'll have improved physical and psychological well-being - regardless of impact on weight.
What we found was that research, science, the literature all point towards that weight-inclusive approach to health.
One of my favorite things I learned from the literature was that that cultural belief that we need to feel dissatisfied with our bodies in order to be motivated to move our bodies more or eat differently is actually completely false.
Instead, what the research shows us, is that people take better care of their bodies when they hold their bodies in high regard.
And going back to that weight-normative approach, the one where the goal is to strive for the ideal weight- there's lots of literature about why that doesn't work, but the thing that I found most compelling was that there has never been an initiative that has helped people reach their weight range goals where they were able to maintain that weight over the long term. It's never been done.
So what ends up happening is that even if people are implementing really positive health behavior change - like playing sports, being active, managing their stress, eating differently - they might feel like those health behaviors don't matter if their weight isn't changing the way they want it to, when in reality research shows us that those behaviors make a huge impact on our long term health and well-being, regardless of what they do to our weight.
So what can you do?
Well we'd recommend starting with yourself. So when you look in the mirror what self talk is going through your head? Can you adjust your frame from focusing on what you look like and start focusing instead on how you feel and how eating really yummy, nutritious food and moving your body in ways you enjoy makes you feel.
And then - spread that awareness to the people you care about and encourage them to do the same.
Here at Campus Health, we believe food is fuel, nourishment, and something to be enjoyed. We think Tar Heels should eat fruits, veggies, fresh meats, dairy, whole grains and nuts and seeds, because they’re nourishing and delicious. We also believe that there are no bad foods. Chips, pizza and chocolate definitely have their place in the college, because they’re fun, tasty and part of a normal lifestyle! But we also think you shouldn’t rely only on those foods. It's all about finding balance.
We also believe health comes in every size. We believe eating a balanced diet and moving your body on a regular basis can make you a successful and healthy student, despite what the scale says. Trust us - there is no one perfect body weight or BMI.