Why a Healthy Lifestyle Matters Beyond Weight Loss
Living a healthy lifestyle goes beyond tipping the scale. Find out how the benefits of nutrition, exercise, and other health factors can transform your life for the better.
Everyone knows at least one person who seemingly eats whatever they want, does not really exercise, and never gains a pound. It might seem unfair, but no matter how healthy they appear from the outside, it reveals very little about what is happening on the inside.
In reality, even if it does not look like it, these folks could benefit from creating a holistic healthy lifestyle. Similarly, even though weight loss is frequently tied to physical appearance, there are many additional benefits of losing weight beyond the scale.
In this article, learn five major benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle beyond weight loss. Also, find out five additional benefits of losing weight that span much further than the number on the scale.
What Are Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors?
The phrase 'healthy lifestyle' is thrown around as often as the ball in a baseball game. And while undoubtedly linked with a healthy diet and physical activity, weight loss entails much more.
In addition, many of these behaviors work synergistically, meaning their power is intensified when practiced together. After all, the body is an ecosystem of functions, so only engaging one or even a couple of healthy practices does not cut it.
Below lists tangible lifestyle habits to adopt today for optimizing a healthy lifestyle.
1. Eat a mostly whole foods diet, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fat sources.
2. Exercise consistently, 3-5 times a week for 20-60 minutes (strength and cardio).
3. Consistently sleep for 7-9 hours a night.
4. Drink half your body weight in ounces of water daily.
5. Manage stress sufficiently.
6. Prioritize mental and emotional health.
7. Limit alcohol to less than four drinks per week.
8. Avoid or quit smoking tobacco.
9. Get enough social interaction (safety permitting for in person, of course).
10. Reduce technological screen time.
11. Connect with nature and/or get enough fresh air daily.
12. Take supplements as needed.
13. Hold firm boundaries.
14. Limit caffeine to no more than 400 milligrams per day.
15. Find time for joy!
Healthy Living Beyond Weight
Despite much progress, health is often associated with physical appearance and namely, weight. However, leading a healthy lifestyle encompasses so much more than that number. Take a look at the five benefits of healthy living regardless of weight.
1. Improved Energy
Many different factors such as nutrition, exercise, sleep patterns, smoking, stress levels, mental health contribute to energy levels throughout the day. Generally, the healthier one's lifestyle, the more energy they have. Not only more physical energy to tackle activities of daily living, but more mental energy to deal with stressors, productively work, and accomplish all the other tasks on a to-do list.
Conversely, poor lifestyle habits like smoking, staying sedentary, eating poorly, and not addressing mental health concerns can drain one's energy and make small tasks feel daunting. These poor habits and behaviors disrupt energetic bodily functions, making them less efficient and wasting precious energy that could be used elsewhere.
For example, even though it seems like a paradox, consistently exercising produces a chain of chemical and hormone reactions that actually create more energy (just like that so-called runner's high) for someone compared to a sedentary person.
2. Better Mental Clarity
Similarly, leading a healthy lifestyle greatly benefits the mind and brain. In addition, to improving the cellular structure of the brain (see point below), it also intangibly betters the mind via improved concentration, focus, emotional responses, and the ability to react to stressful situations. Because these improvements are much less visible than something like weight loss, they are sometimes less valued.
But think about the impact of this benefit alone. How much simpler life, and especially work, might be if the autonomic (brain) and voluntary (mind) actions were functioning at full capacity a majority of the time. Those work struggles become bearable and the brain does not have to work so hard to correct disrupted functions, allowing for additional higher advanced thinking. Indeed, when people adopt healthier lifestyles, they often rave about their lifted brain fog and what a special effect that really is.
3. Strengthened Cellular Health
Perhaps the greatest benefit of all, healthy behaviors equal healthy cells and the latter leads to an optimized body. Cells might be small, but they are ultimately the molecules sustaining life. Thus, they require ample nutrients to function.
Not only do cells need the basics like carbs, fat, and protein, but to operate optimally, they need all essential micronutrients, plenty of hydration, and adequate movement and rest. Additionally, they are greatly affected by poor lifestyle habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol often, and eating non-nutritious foods often.
In fact, it cannot be understated how gravely unhealthy behaviors affect cellular health. They can cause cascades of reactions that ultimately lead to hormonal changes that then affect nearly every cellular process, otherwise known as metabolism. Whereas metabolism is often viewed in regards to burning calories, it actually encompasses much more, driving everything from temperature regulation to blood pressure to insulin sensitivity.
Most health professionals would consider someone who is technically overweight or obese who engages in healthy behaviors might be healthier than someone who is a normal weight but has poor cellular health due to lifestyle choices.
4. Enhanced Immunity
Healthy lifestyles also improve immunity. The most impactful of these behaviors include sleep, diet, and exercise. Moderation of the last is especially key, as overtraining is actually associated with worse immunity than not enough. But still, irrespective of weight, leading a healthy lifestyle is vital towards staving off sickness.
Why is this so? This point really relates to the one above, because when someone is caring for themselves healthfully, cells have to work double-time to essentially mend the damage of those behaviors. This then means that some immune cells are directed away from their primary job, resulting in decreased immune function.
The benefits of nutrition and healthy eating habits can likewise boost the immune system. Specific foods include chicken, berries, oranges, and carrots, as they are valuable sources of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients essential for a healthy immune system.
5. Stronger Relationships
Finally, healthier lifestyles lead to healthier, stronger relationships. The better someone cares for themselves, the better they can care for others as well. And when the body does not have to use so much energy towards repairing unhealthy lifestyles, it provides more space to give energy towards friends, family, coworkers and the like.
Healthy choices improve relationships by providing opportunities for deeper conversation, expressing feelings, eliciting empathy, understanding different perspectives and so much more. Leading overall healthy lives is such an underrated way to improve relationships!
Benefits of Losing Weight Beyond the Scale
Now, the first part of this article is not to say that weight loss is unimportant. In many instances, even a small amount of weight loss can drastically improve one’s life and benefits much more than just the scale. Here are five additional benefits of losing weight.
1. Reduced Risk of Chronic Disease
Losing weight can single handedly reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases like metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease. Losing and maintaining a healthy weight can even reverse conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and, of course, obesity.
While weight shaming is never ok, consider how much of an impact it elicits upon health, especially when it comes to chronic diseases that are undoubtedly affected by weight. Other factors, sometimes uncontrollable, also contribute to risk of developing disease, but weight seems to be most impactful in this arena.
2. Boosted Self-Confidence
A wonderful benefit of losing weight includes feeling more confident! Even beyond physical appearance, losing and maintaining a healthy weight can empower someone and remind them that they achieve hard goals and persevere through obstacles and plateaus.
Meeting a weight loss goal generally boosts wellbeing and self-efficacy, with self-confidence as a side effect. As a result, one is more likely to continue embodying a healthy lifestyle.
3. Improved Exercise Performance
Weight certainly is not the most important factor when it comes to exercise performance. However, it does matter and considerably so for endurance sports like cycling and running.
A concept known as the power-to-weight ratio (PWR) helps highlight this. PWR refers to the amount of power a person can generate (speed-strength) divided by body weight. Increasing PWR allows athletes to generate more force more efficiently and this can be accomplished by decreasing weight while maintaining or improving strength.
Plus, generally speaking, carrying less body fat caters to better agility, quicker cardio, greater range of motion, and more flexibility, all of which enhance exercise performance.
4. Less Joint Pain
Piggybacking off the last sentence above, less body fat also equals less strain on bones and joints. Carrying excess weight puts more pressure on bones and joints and this can lead to aches and pains.
Most often, this pain is felt in places like the elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. What’s more, extra weight also leads to increased inflammation that promotes water retention and swelling, but this is easily mitigated with moderate weight loss.
5. Reduced Medication Reliance
Lastly, weight loss can lead to less reliance on medications, especially for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Some people are able to substantially lower their doses while others may be able to completely stop medication for their condition. Rather, a healthy lifestyle becomes medicine! How cool is it to know that much power exists within?
Then, imagine the further benefit of less medication like fewer doctor appointments and lower health care bills. It’s the domino effect in full force!
Although health is frequently synonymous with weight, it spans much further than that. Even if not totally evident from the outside, leading a healthy lifestyle is critically important for vitality and longevity.
Energy levels, mental clarity, and cellular health comprise only a few factors affected by healthy behaviors such as a nutritious diet, consistent exercise, adequate sleep, and proper hydration.
And while the number reflected on the scale isn’t the end all be all, weight loss can certainly provide benefits such as the reduced risk of chronic disease and better exercise performance.
Mangieri H. Size Does Matter: Understanding Power-to-Weight Ratio. STACK. Updated June 17, 2013. www.stack.com/a/power-to-weight-ratio.