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Mental health struggles and unintentional weight fluctuations are strongly linked
Mental health struggles and unintentional weight fluctuations are strongly linked. Experts state that stress is a major contributing factor in weight gain and sudden, unexpected weight loss. If the last year and a half has been anything, it has been stressful. In the U.S., 61% of adults reported unintentional weight change, with an average gain of 29 pounds. In the UK, nearly 40% of adults reported unwanted weight gain, with an average gain of 7 pounds.
Before jumping into crash diets motivated by feelings of guilt, it’s a good idea to take stock and get a more accurate picture of your overall health (particularly as research states that body dysmorphia is “relatively common”). This is even more important if your fluctuation in weight is stemming from a mental health issue or pandemic induced stress, as weight loss in overweight/obese folks has “no psychological benefit”.
Instead of approaching your weight from a place of insecurity, become your own health advocate by getting expert help to stop negative thoughts surrounding your weight so you can focus on reaching the weight related goals that feel appropriate to you.
Fat-shaming—when we make people feel guilty about their weight—does not work. In fact, folks who are fat-shamed are more likely to gain weight, because, as we’ve established, unintentional fluctuations in weight are often driven by stress and poor mental health.
In addition, most diets are really just a hodge-podge of myth and sales tactics. Instead, simply getting educated about your diet and health choices, eating moderate portions, and creating a physical activity habit are the best methods for meeting your weight + health-related goals. It sounds so simple, but can be a challenge in the face of life pressures, misinformation, and the prevalence of weight-shaming in healthcare.
The best place to start is to reframe your thinking away from diets and guilt, and into self advocacy. By becoming an advocate for your health and wellbeing, you’re able to take a more realistic look at your overall health, move away from stigmatized thinking, and can create lifelong healthy habits.
Being an advocate for your health and wellbeing does require a significant investment of time and effort. You have to educate yourself about the health issues you are facing, and be prepared to ask questions when consulting with medical professionals. It also requires responsibility: you cannot take everything you read about mental health + weight at face value. Instead, you must be critical about the information you are folding into your current understanding of weight by questioning the validity of the source. To become an advocate for your own health, you must ensure any advice you take comes from legitimate experts like therapists and trainers, who operate using peer-reviewed research. That’s a big ask, but there are a few easier steps you can take to find the right experts.
Mobile health + finding the right care
Telehealth is evolving as we move through the pandemic and the various public health crises it has caused. Mobile health now offers users an array of apps to track health records, check symptoms, and gain easier access to health experts and therapists.
Getting in touch with doctors who hold medical licenses is a key step in managing weight and gaining a deeper understanding of your overall health. However, simply booking an appointment by utilizing telehealth or visiting a doctor in person won’t guarantee that you connect with the right expert for you. Unfortunately, weight stigma is pervasive in healthcare internationally and can damage your weight-related efforts. Instead, you can take steps to ensure your new doctor is size-friendly and empathetic by seeking them out intentionally via search sites and databases.
Advancements in telehealth also signals a positive shift for folks who live in rural areas. Studies show that people living in rural areas are 6.2 times more likely to be classed as obese but routinely have less access to quality clinicians and dieticians. This means the widespread use of legitimate telehealth services is vital for the long-term success of rural folks who are looking to advocate for themselves and get in touch with qualified experts.
Advocating for yourself during consultations
It can be intimidating to ask questions at the doctor’s office, but, if you’ve found the right expert for you, it will not be an issue. Physicians are trained to be advocates for you and so asking questions just shows that you are invested in bettering your health. When interacting with medical experts, take notes, ask questions and be sure to outline your expectations. This way, your physician will know how best to help you and will gain a deeper understanding of your issues and goals.
Moving forward as a health advocate
By recognizing the impact of pandemic-induced stress and ongoing mental health issues, you can better your chances of achieving the healthy weight change you desire. Telehealth options and online resources for fat-positive doctors means you can connect with the right doctor at the right time, and can become a well educated, effective advocate for your health.
(Image source: pexels.com)
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