By Val Schonberg
The word “health” means different things to different people. In fact, it’s taken on new meaning to me over the years. I was brought up to value health, but most of what I understood about “being healthy” was related to physical health. And, most notably, if you weren’t thin, you weren’t healthy.
So, I pursued thinness. Right along with the rest of our culture, I pursued the belief that if you have the “right” body size and eat the “right” way, your problems will be solved and you will live happily and healthfully ever after. And, being a perfectionist, I’m quite certain I did it the “right” way. Unfortunately, there was no “happy and healthy” for me during this time. Now, there’s nothing wrong with trying to eat well and stay physically fit. However, when this is your number one priority in life, there’s nothing healthy about it.
Although I struggled with my distorted beliefs about health early on in life, I went on to pursue a master’s degree in nutrition science and completed the requirements to be a registered dietitian. I’m fascinated by science and really do love food and eating. So, in many ways, my education was an important part of correcting some of my misunderstandings about physical health. With some practice, my personal relationship with food, eating, exercise, and weight began to come into balance.
The quest for finding peace with food, eating, and weight, however, has less to do with what I eat or how much I exercise than with my lifestyle and learning to manage adversity. Most people know that optimal health is the result of both physical and mental health. But over and over again, people try to quantify this by referencing BMI (body mass index) charts, calorie intake (or calories burned), and even using blood tests to measure stress hormones. What keeps one person functioning when stress, trauma, and pain strike, while another falls to pieces? Resilience. Plenty of research has demonstrated that nutrition and activity are important, but faith, sleep, positive relationships, and stress management all play an important role in overcoming hardship and staying well.
My personal experience of overcoming abuse, divorce, loneliness, and stress, along with my professional experience as a clinical dietitian working in mental health, has clearly demonstrated to me that “being healthy” is more than a person’s body size.
Today, I balance my time by living what I teach— eating intuitively and staying active. My priorities are faith and family. My greatest joy is my kids, cooking, having family meals, and spending quality time with friends and family which are all a part of my everyday life.
Val Schonberg MS, RD, CSSD, LD, NCM is a dietician, speaker, and teacher. She owns EnlightenU Nutrition Consulting, LLC. Learn more at www.enlightenUnutrition.com.