an old fashion scale against a green and white wall

Weight, Happiness, & Health: What’s the Real Deal on This Controversial Topic?

Body weight, happiness, and overall health can be confusing! Also, controversial!

The journey with body weight, happiness, and health will have ups and downs.

Weight loss is one of the most cumbersome topics.  The notion of losing weight has been excessively marketed and, furthermore, may lead to confusion, frustration, and general discouragement.  Each of which can wreak havoc on someone’s overall well-being.  

The major mess of disjointed information out there is so excessive that “weight management” becomes a bit of a cringe-worthy topic to address as a professional working in the health and wellness space.

Regardless, weight loss and overall weight management serve as motivational drivers for many people in their journey to live healthier.  Therefore, it is relevant to understand a few things related to human body weight.

So, what should you know about a healthy, happy weight?

First of all, there are few tried and true constructs in health and behavioral science.  However, they won’t represent the whole picture when it comes to your personal journey with weight.

It’s well supported to eat your fruits and vegetables!  In fact, this may be the only universal truth in modern human health science.  (We’ll leave that discussion for another day).

In general, eating a variety of plant-based foods will help to ensure the most optimal outcomes.  There is a wide range of nutritional biochemistry behind this.  Yet, in a nutshell, Michael Pollan’s famous quote “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” isn’t a bad guideline.

Another facet that we understand to varying degrees is that humans are social creatures and, therefore, will be influenced by a range of variables related to that construct.  Not to mention environmental factors that may be social or physical in nature.

The bottom line… the so-called health outcome of body weight is represented by a vast multifactorial landscape!

Which three primary things should you know about human health and weight?

When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, three overarching categories underscore the topic:

  1. Underlying physiological circumstances
  2. External factors
  3. Emotional-social-mental contributors

Underlying individual aspects in biological physiology may be one of the most significant areas to have awareness for.  This is where the “clinical” aspect of body weight will be the clearest.  

The tricky thing is some of these conditions can remain subclinical for several years, which means you may not have clear and present symptoms.  The American Thyroid Association, for example, estimates that up to 60% of those with a thyroid condition will be unaware of it!  Thyroid impairments are a risk factor for other conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases.  

Underlying autoimmunity is another common offender, which can lead to a wide range of health conditions.

External factors, such as environmental-related variables, may wreak havoc on our health!  Effects from exposures to endocrine-disrupting chemicals are not brand new concepts but have received greater attention lately.  Especially as the prevalence of lifestyle-related metabolic health conditions have skyrocketed, such as diabetes, heart-related conditions, and certain cancers.  

These adverse substrates may be present in our natural environment due to pollution.  However, they may also be lurking in personal and home care products.  

There is also a lot more that is considered food these days which are in sharp contrast to what nature intended.  When processed foods are consumed, it is unclear that our bodies understand that it’s being fed well.  Furthermore, this can lead us down a rather slippery slope in terms of internal health and wellness.

Emotional, social, and mental-related factors may lead to a more complex landscape regarding the factors that contribute to healthy body weight.  Sociological-related factors may play a role in the cognitive aspects related to various health statuses.  

The level of detail from social and behavioral health science would far exceed the optimal word count for this blog post.  However, it is clear from a range of science that past emotional experiences, social networks, community, and the sense of purpose play a role in health outcomes, including those health conditions related to body weight.

What are other things that matter in weight management?

Mental-physical-emotional wellness is a key here and is much about balance.  This is where lifestyle factors such as stress, sleep, and physical activity will also play an active role.  Also, perhaps the obvious, an appropriate approach to nutrition.  Much has been covered regarding areas, so we won’t spend a ton of time on this.  

However, each aspect (mental, physical, and emotional health) can interject into human physiology and influence the balance of our internal systems.  They are also interrelated, i.e. linked, when it comes to overall health outcomes.  The various tributaries this topic could take us are both informative and compelling.

Glean a little more on this topic from a healthy minds chat on PBS.

I would never want to steer anyone away from clinical factors related to body weight.  However, at the end of the day, real-life human factors associated with body image, confidence, and self-esteem definitely influence the happiness part of a “happy, healthy weight.”  It never ceases to amaze me how emotional well-being plays a role with overall health outcomes, even the clinical baselines.

So, what’s next in your happy, healthy journey with weight?

Hopefully, you have already gleaned that the journey for health, happiness, and weight loss may not be linear.

The simple answer may not seem all that simple at first glance.  However, when it comes to getting on board with a weight loss plan, avoiding some of the cookie-cutter, over-marketed options may decrease mental fatigue!  

It is not to say that some of these programs won’t provide insights and steps for behavior change.  However, the “canned” design of these so-called solutions may overlook individual factors specific to your health journey.  Therefore, taking a realistic perspective regarding whether or not to “jump on the ship” with any or every weight loss solution may be the best takeaway from this blog post.

This is also part of why I spend time educating people on the less covered factors, such as subclinical health conditions or environmental factors.  Influential variables such as these may be wreaking havoc without someone’s full awareness.  

There is a methodical structure to weight loss and management (from research), such as targeting 10% loss over 6-months at an average rate of 1-2 lbs/week.  However, taking this approach while not recognizing underlying factors which may impair our clinical functionality will be missing the bullseye.

From a behavior change perspective, setting up a structure for simple, realistic shifts in the lifestyle can set you up for a better balance.  It really is a delicate balance between health science and practical approaches to human behavior.  However, typically the mindset will also need a little nurturing and could lend further support to the case for a health coach or mentor.

Regardless, many of you wish to be your own steward in your health journey (no matter what stage). A few steps towards a happier, healthier weight could be as follows:

Annual check-ups – this isn’t just for athletes or those with chronic health conditions.  Awareness of how you are trending with blood sugar (glucose), cholesterol, waist circumference, and blood pressure can serve as a simple baseline for your overall health.  It is a core construct to assess common risk factors, which may be related to weight status.  

The annual health check is also a time to discuss other factors like thyroid or autoimmune health with clinical providers.  These health professionals will be able to request relevant laboratory tests.

Eat clean, real food – it has been said a gazillion times.  Yet, in general, foods in their most natural form are more readily understood by our bodies.  Whole, unprocessed foods from naturally healthy environments and conditions will serve you leaps and bounds in terms of overall health.

Ditch and switch with chemical-laced personal and home care products – this may take a broader education.  However, two easy ways to start are 1) focusing on simple, easy-to-understand ingredient profiles and 2) avoiding synthetic fragrance.  

(If an ingredient panel simply states “fragrance” without context for what compounds go into it, this is a proprietary tool and will be best to avoid.  Synthetic fragrances contain phthalates, an obesogenic chemical).

Find balance with lifestyle health – sleep, physical activity, and stress management each interplay with internal homeostasis, such as hormonal activity, blood sugar regulation, and the health of your digestive system (your body’s detox platform!).  These factors also play a role in the form and structure of body weight distribution.

Also, regarding balance, some studies have suggested that total weight loss is more relevant for metabolic health versus the rate at which you take the pounds off.  Meaning, rapid weight loss plans may not help you that much, nor will they result in sustainable weight management.

Grant yourself self-acceptance – maintaining your health is a life-long process!  Just like other aspects of life, there will be shifts and changes over time.  You may be thrown unexpected new curveballs.  At times along the path, you will undoubtedly find yourself in challenging circumstances.  Therefore, a core construct to positive health and wellness is treating yourself with care across areas related to mental, physical, and emotional health.  

You will find allowing yourself time to respond and adjust to various bumps in the road will lead to a greater sense of happiness and, therefore, overall wellness.

A while back, we synthesized 7 tips from an article on losing weight the “functional medicine way.”

Photo by Ronit Shaked on Unsplash


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