5 Things Olympic Bodies Teach Us About Health
Like billions of people around the world, I love watching the Olympics. As someone who recovered from an eating disorder and used to yo-yo diet, one of the things I find most fascinating about the Olympics is the athlete’s bodies.
Here are 5 things Olympic bodies can teach us about health:
1. Weight doesn’t matter
Olympic athletes show us that you don’t need to weigh a certain amount to be healthy. In fact, you cannot tell if someone is healthy by looking at their body. I am serious.
When it comes to working out if someone is healthy, I don’t care about what their weight. I’m far more curious about: energy levels, fitness, nutrient levels, blood pressure, heart rate, emotional happiness etc etc. These measures tell you whether someone is healthy – not their weight.
Photographer Howard Schatz’s work has helped to expose the wide spectrum of body types belonging to 125 of the world’s best athletes
2. The BMI is bollocks
I think the BMI (or Body Mass Index) is complete rubbish. If you applied the BMI to these Olympic athletes, many of them would have ‘unhealthy’ BMIs. The BMI was developed to look at population data – not individuals. And it’s outdated now anyway.
BMI should not be used to determine if someone is healthy by comparing their height and weight to the ‘norm’.
Too many people who work in the health industry still rely on BMI which is disappointing. But luckily, I think this is changing.
Photographer Howard Schatz’s work
3. We are so different. Naturally.
We have a very narrow view of what we define as a healthy body type. For women the ideal is slim and toned… (but not-too-toned because god forbid women should look too strong! Argh) and for men, the ideal is lean and very muscular (which is equally hard to achieve). Apparently, these ‘ideal’ body types are meant to be ‘healthy’… but I don’t buy it.
There is no one healthy body type.
We are all unique with naturally different shapes. Just look at these incredibly healthy Olympians whose incredibly different body types make their superstars.
4. Body shapes are predetermined
We all have a unique body types, that is largely predetermined. Fitness magazines and stupid diets love to make us think we can magically morph into a different body type with enough willpower, exercise and restrictive. But we can’t. If you look at the Olympic athletes, you can clearly see the natural differences in body types.
One body type is not better than the other – they are just different, with their own unique benefits.
I’m a naturally muscular girl. I’ve always been good at sports but even a few years ago, I would have traded that in a heartbeat to fit into the thin body ideal. I used to resent that I wasn’t lean, skinny or slight. But that is my body type. No matter how much weight I lose, my body type remains.
Instead of trying to change my shape (which is actually impossible), I’ve just accepted that this is my body type and I’m embracing the benefits that come with it. It may not be ‘perfect’, but it’s healthy. And that’s far more important to me…
Photographer Howard Schatz’s work
5. No one is naturally or permanently body confident
Have you ever lost weight and thought, “this is great – but if I could just lose a little more then…”. It’s super common. Even people who have the ‘ideal’ body type aren’t happy with their bodies. Olympians aren’t immune either.
My take-home message for you, my friend.
Please don’t give up 95% of your life to weigh 5% less.
Your healthiest weight is not defined by how good you look in swimmers or whether or not you have cellulite on your thighs.
Your healthiest weight is where your hormones are balanced, your body is strong and you have the energy to do the things you love.
When you push your body to lose those last stubborn pounds, deprive, restrict, push and punish, you’re giving up more than calories.
You miss out on life. You pay with freedom and spontaneity. You give up your mental space so all you can think about is food and numbers.
Your life doesn’t have to revolve around food and your mood doesn’t need to be dictated by the number on the scale.
If you want more help feeling comfortable in your body, check out Back to Basics.
Now I’m going to leave you with this video of Serena Williams being awesome and teaching us how to work it…