It’s that time of year when we start to see the magazines and random “fitness gurus” telling us it’s time for a “New Year, New Body”, or to get a “bikini body”, whatever that is. After the celebrations of Christmas feasting, women (and men) are particularly vulnerable to this thinly-veiled attempt to make everyone feel inadequate and sign up to the latest fad diet or exercise regime.
If you’re struggling with your body image at this time of year, here’s some news for you that I’m not sure you know about. Your doctor doesn’t care about the way your body looks. We don’t care if you don’t have a six-pack, a flat tummy, and cellulite-free legs. We are aware of the dangers of body image problems – because most of us know the heart-sink feeling when someone walks in, hiding skin and bones under a baggy jumper, and we wonder how we are going to gently ask them if there is any possibility they have been restricting their food and/or exercising and have an abnormal appreciation of their body shape, i.e.. “Could you have Anorexia Nervosa?” We also see a lot of bulimics, both recovered and recovering.
So we don’t care about the way your body looks but we do care about how your body functions and what you are doing to help it work for as long as it should. Here are some of the things we do care about.
We do care about your weight, because excess weight can signal that you may develop high blood pressure, heart disease, and some cancers. If you’re overweight, we’ll help you with changing your diet and getting more active, and reducing other risk factors. We’ll measure your waist, because it’s an indication that you might get diabetes, and we don’t want you to develop blindness or kidney failure from this extremely common and devastating chronic illness. So we’ll put you on the scales and get the tape measure out. But not because you don’t measure up to looking like a fashion model. And we don’t need you to achieve perfection either. Losing just 5-10% of weight can have enormous positive changes to your health.
We care about wrinkles because they can tell us you have sun-damaged skin, and we don’t want to be cutting out melanomas from your skin in the future, so we’ll remind you to slip, slop, slap.
We care if you come in looking sad, without that sparkle in your eye because it tells us you might be depressed, and we want to help you recover from this debilitating condition.
This New Year, how about making resolutions that don’t revolve around trying to look like a ridiculous teenage fashion model, especially with the revelations that the majority of photographs in glossy magazines are adulterated and don’t reflect what models really look like? Here are some resolutions that your doctor would be happy with.
I will eat five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit a day.
I will aim to be active every day, for at least 30 minutes, and I will find enjoyable ways to lead a more active and less sedentary life.
I will limit processed foods and refined carbohydrates.
I will drink only in moderation (2 standard drinks for women, 4 for men a day) and have two alcohol free days a week.
I will include legumes, nuts, olive oil, avocadoes, and other healthy fats in my diet.
I will not eat excessive amounts of saturated fat (contained in some red meats, processed meats, full fat dairy products).
I will limit or eliminate consumption of processed meats altogether.
I will cultivate a healthy relationship with food.
I will slip, slop, slap all the time, and will not sunbake (or should I say sunburn).
I will not drink and drive.
I will look after my mental health with enough sleep, practice of gratitude or mindfulness or similar, social connections, and regular exercise.
I will make health a priority, and see my doctor for my preventive health checks
I will honour my body for what it is – an amazing creation, with arms that . can hug, hands that can make a meal and dress myself, and wipe my bottom, all functions that are taken for granted until they are gone. I’ll honour my legs that can take me from my bedroom to the world, on my own, without assistance. I’ll honour my brain, which helps me decide what is safe and what isn’t, remember who the members of my family are, and direct the rest of my body. I’ll honour my eyes, which allow me to gaze at sunsets and the beautiful faces of those I love.
I’ll focus on what my body can do, not how it looks. And I’ll do everything to keep it ticking over just the way it should – without pain, without loss of function, with vitality.
Happy New Year to all and feel free to add your health “resolutions” below. Wishing you much health and happiness in 2017!