Weight management is a buzz term we often hear in news reports, research studies and articles. The concept of weight management, although it is intended to be more about balancing a wide range of factors, sounds much more like the focus is on just that — weight and controlling the number on the scale.
In reality, weight management is less about what the scale says and more about how we are working (or struggling) to bring about a balance that results in successful lifestyle management. In other words, its not about an isolated number on a scale. While that number can provide some initial information, it is a single piece to a much larger and more complicated puzzle. In absence of other important pieces of information, the number on the scale defines this: our individual relationship with the Earths gravitational pull. I dont know about you, but to me, that isnt enough to define health or happiness or contentment.
Instead, lets start thinking about our individual lives through a holistic and comprehensive view. This means examining all factors that can influence personal health and well-being, and many of these factors are much more difficult to quantify. For example, acute and chronic stress levels, quality of sleep and environmental and psychosocial factors are not directly measurable. They require more of a qualitative investigation.
The quantifiable pieces of information are easy to obtain a quick trip the doctors office will include measurements such as height, weight, blood pressure and resting heart rate. While these are all critical pieces to the health puzzle, they do not reflect the root causes (i.e., high cortisol levels, poor sleep, depression, imbalanced biochemistry, etc.) of elevated or abnormal numbers. This is where you can begin thinking about the answers to questions like the following:
1. How is your sleep? Tell me how many hours of sleep you get (on average a night) and how rested you feel upon waking.
2. Whats your physical activity level like? How active are you throughout the work day?
3. Whats your work or home environment like? How often do you experience high levels of stress?
4. Have you had a body composition test performed to evaluate your body fat percentage as it relates to your lean mass?
5. How often do you take time for you to engage in a hobby or a joyful activity?
Its unlikely this entire conversation will take place in a physicians office, but the more information you gather, the greater likelihood you will have of solving whatever ailments youre experiencing. The point is this: Know the numbers, but also search for possible contributing factors and take the focus off the scale.
You can start by examining your own lifestyle inventory by paying closer attention to sleep, hydration levels, mood/emotional well-being, stress, overall quality of food intake (i.e., too much sugar or too little protein), energy levels (this is related to not only sleep and exercise but food and hormones), and how often you engage in an activity or hobby that you enjoy and that provides a sense of peace and renewal.
Theres no one right way to examine lifestyle. Choose a method that works with you and, most important, doesnt cause additional stress or anxiety. A simple journal can help uncover certain patterns and areas in need of attention as well as areas that are balanced.
Evaluating quality of life and optimal levels of health involves more than numbers and categories. Its about achieving balance, and in order to achieve balance, we have to know what areas of daily life are out of sync. Managing lifestyle factors will ultimately result in a healthy harmony we all wish to experience.
Erin Nitschke is a health and human performance educator, NSCA-CPT and ACE Health Coach. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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