Somehow, some way, we've intertwined weight loss with health.
Weight gain can be healthy. And it might even be healthy for you.
In order to convince you of this, I will start with the most obvious example I can think of: anorexia.
Anorexia, as you may know, is an eating disorder whereby the patient starves oneself.
Eating disorders cause physiological and psychological damage to health.
The National Eating Disorders Association pinpoints some of the physiological consequences here. They include things like bone damage, muscle weakness, fatigue, fainting, and in really dangerous cases, heart failure.
You've all heard of being "hangry" (hungry + angry). When people are chronically underfed, they're hangry all the time. In the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, this was their conclusion. Participants suffered depression, "hysteria," anxiety, and preoccupation with food.
Eating disorder centers help patients recover by helping them eat again. Often this results in weight gain and restored health.
This extreme example shows simply that sometimes it's healthy to gain weight. When things get extreme, it's easier to see how much someone needs help.
But more people are experiencing symptoms of anorexia without being severely underweight.
People who don't have diagnosed eating disorders are experiencing similar symptoms to anorexia.
Researchers fed participants in the Minnesota Starvation Experiment 1600 calories a day. Jenny Craig puts some people as low as 1200 calories per day.
When I was dieting, I suffered health consequences associated with eating disorders.
I felt depressed and unsatisfied. I often felt tired and weak when I restricted calories and tried to hit the treadmill. I was even so preoccupied with food I decided to become a health coach. Since I stopped dieting, I've felt an uptick in happiness and satisfaction. I don't work out anymore when I feel tired. But, when I do choose to exercise, it feels good more often than it hurts.
This is the problem with equating weight loss to health and weight gain to unhealthiness.
It makes symptoms of eating disorders opaque to us. We can't see when people are starving or semi-starving. We can't see the osteoporosis and the depression because we think people look "healthy." They don't look like skeletons. They don't look like Lifetime movie characters.
Taylor Swift might SEEM healthy. We might WANT to look like Taylor Swift. But, that doesn't mean that trying to get your body to look like Taylor Swift IS healthy. Taylor Swift's weight might not be a healthy weight for YOU.
Weighing MORE might be healthy.
Gaining an extra ten pounds might nourish you. You might be less depressed and more energetic. You might be less afraid of the Zika virus and gluten intolerance.
Weight gain might be healthy for you.