Good health seems to be caught between two opposing extremes in the United States: obesity and skinniness. Clearly obesity is a huge problem among Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 35% of US adults suffer from the condition, which in turn contributes to various life-threatening illnesses including cancer and heart disease.

At the other end of the spectrum from overeating and lack of exercise are people who maintain a weight that is below a healthy level. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders (ANAD) reports that as many as 24 million US citizens have eating disorders, with only about 10% of afflicted individuals getting appropriate medical care.

Many of us have started to realize that neither of the above two extremes are ideal – that instead of desiring thinness, we should strive for healthiness and strength. In 2013, posts were floating around on social media with the tagline, “Strong is the new skinny.” This perspective is certainly helpful to combat body image disorders in the US and elsewhere. However, health is more complex than taglines, as indicated by the two articles described below.

Replacing thinness with strength is problematic

Fitness expert Jennipher Walters – CEO of FitBottomedGirls.com – argued last year that she didn’t completely agree with the notion of strength as “the new” thinness.

Walters’ primary argument is that the structure of the phrase – Strong is the new skinny – seems to imply that women should stop focusing on losing weight and instead focus on adding muscle “in order to be accepted and seen as beautiful by society.” Rather than simply seeing people change their focus from dieting to strength-training, Walters would like women and men with body image issues to become the healthiest and most empowered versions of themselves.

Exercise and weight loss

Before this conversation surrounding strength and body weight arose, Emma John of The Guardian reported in 2010 that the effort to keep weight down with exercise was scientifically misguided anyway. A review of recent studies by the Mayo Clinic revealed that “no or modest” success was experienced by those attempting weight loss when exercise was their only strategy.

Healthy weight loss

As seen above, the right attitude toward health and fitness doesn’t simply replace thinness with strength or expect exercise to work by itself. Instead, it’s about taking care of your body in a way that makes you feel good mentally and physically. People with extra weight on their bodies tend to suffer from pain conditions, which we treat at Pain Stop Clinics, as part of an overall transition to better health.

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