Are health and weight as closely linked as you think? Yoga Teacher Aisha Nash explores what health means and discovers the myths the ‘wellness’ industry has been selling us.
Health and Weight are not the same thing
Hi! It’s Aisha Nash here, I’m a Yoga teacher that specialises in teaching Yoga from a non-fitness perspective. I take the Diet Culture out of the Yoga practise, and guide you through a practise of moving meditation.
I grew up surrounded by ill-health, and due to this I’ve spent my life fascinated by the human body and what health is. From having completed a Biology degree, to teaching Yoga, I am constantly coming back to the question of what it means to be healthy.
The World Health Organisation defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well- being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. By this definition, health is not about what you look like, what your body weighs – it is much bigger than that. In fact your health is so much bigger than what you think is under your control – or what you’ve been sold by the society we live in.
An Elitist View
For most people, their physical, mental and social well-being is a little bit out of their control. You can’t really control your genetics, the area of the world you live in, your access to healthcare (mental healthcare here as well) or how much you earn. This means the regular view of health – the one the “Wellness Industry” sells us – is, elitist, ableist and demeaning.
We are constantly sold this view of “health” as being glowing skin, a full head of hair, with a body that is mobile and flexible. The wellness industry is incredible at doing this. You have smiling slender celebrities that insincerely imply that if you spend enough money you’ll eventually be “healthy”. However that’s not true for the majority of humans in this world. Being healthy and well is a privilege.
Health and Wealth
We as humans cannot out-spend our genetics. The majority of humans do not have an endless amount of money to spend on lotions and potions and potential snake oils to improve their health. Those same smiling slender celebrities still become unwell; they still suffer from all sorts of infirmities and diseases.
This is important to keep in mind when we come into January; the month of dieting, detox and new beginnings. Those diets, plans, protocols and potential lifestyle changes (especially when they are very restrictive) will not fix your health – or get you any closer to physically resembling that celebrity or personal trainer whose programme you’ve bought.
It could however harm your health as dieting is a form of chronic stress in the body, because of its rules and rigidity. We see the same levels of stress in dieters as we do for those living with food insecurity.
Dieting and Health
Your weight fluctuating constantly (weight cycling) whilst dieting has a damaging effect on your physical health, and research has shown maintaining a stable weight (regardless of what that weight is) is healthier for your body. Constant dieting can also lead to loss of muscle and bone mass, poor self body image and depression. For those that are genetically predisposed, it can lead to suffering from eating disorders.
Dieting is the perfect example of how complex issues, like our relationship with food and body image, rarely have solutions like “just eat less” or “only eat this”. So, the next time someone wants to sell you that magic bullet for all your health woes, consider whether or not it will actually help to address the many internal and external factors that actually influence your health. Next time, I will talk you through some simple, accessible things you can add to your life that will help to improve your health without depriving your body of anything it needs or wants.
>> If you’re looking to make positive changes in the New Year to your health and your happiness, why not join our Small Steps to Change course?<<
About Aisha Nash:
Aisha Nash has ‘lived the dream’ and been burnt by it as well as burnt out. She draws on her personal experience of pursuing her dream job as a pastry chef, grasping success only to discover that her physical and mental health suffered greatly. Aisha now teaches yoga; to help people discover who they really are and find comfort and joy within their own skin.
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