Why You Should Prioritize Health for a Better Life

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Year of Yes" by Shonda Rhimes. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you neglect your health sometimes? How should you prioritize health in life?

In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes explains how her busy career caused her to neglect an important area of her life: her health. But with careful evaluation and consideration, she concluded that prioritizing her health would make her happier.

Continue reading to learn how Rhimes prioritized health and if you should too.

Prioritize Your Health

As courageous as Rhimes was in facing her social anxiety, she also took a brave and honest look at her relationship with her health and body. She decided that she would feel healthier and happier if she lost weight and prioritized health. By fully committing to the challenge, she succeeded in her goal, which connected her more to her body, boosted her confidence, and made her feel better physically. 

In choosing a healthier lifestyle, Rhimes worked to change her relationship with food. This was not an easy decision for her—eating was one of Rhimes’s greatest joys and main ways of coping with stress and uncomfortable emotions. However, she could no longer deny how unwell she felt physically, so she decided that choosing weight loss was more important to her than choosing to continue her eating habits. To successfully do so, she tapped into her strong work ethic and committed to being healthy.

Being in a Fat Body Does Not Mean You Must Change

Rhimes’s personal journey to health does not reflect the right path to health for everyone who might be perceived as being overweight. In You Just Need to Lose Weight and 19 Other Myths About Fat People, fat-activist and author Aubrey Gordon explains how society has many deeply held, scientifically inaccurate beliefs and biases about fatness (the term “fat” is being reclaimed by people with large bodies to describe themselves and is not a derogatory word, much like the word “queer” has been reclaimed by the LGBTQ community). A few myths Gordon outlines about fatness are:

#1: Contrary to popular belief, your body size is largely determined by factors outside of your control. Most people’s bodies have a “set-point”—the size their body naturally tends to be, which is determined mostly by genetics. 

#2: The healthy choice for fat people is not always to lose weight. In fact, common weight loss strategies, like restricting calories and over-exercising, can lead to weight-cycling (also known as “yo-yo dieting”), which can have detrimental health effects over time, including metabolic diseases like diabetes.

#3: Not all fat people use food to cope with stress and deal with difficult emotions. Emotional eating is an issue for people of all body sizes, and not every fat person has emotional eating issues that need to be addressed.

Key Takeaways

Everyone’s body is their own, and everyone has the power to choose what health and happiness mean to them. If you are unhappy with your health and body, you can make different choices and commit to them fully. However, if you choose not to make those changes, then you should accept the outcome of that choice. For example, if you choose to play video games all weekend, don’t be upset about your stiff muscles on Sunday night. Accept that that’s the outcome of your choice.

Changing your relationship with your health is never an easy journey. If you recognize that it will be challenging, you’ll be better able to accept the difficult times and stay motivated.

Social Factors Can Matter More Than Your Personal Choices

It’s common for self-help sources to emphasize your personal responsibility to make better choices for your well-being, but there are reasons why you might not have full agency over your health choices. Having a lack of access to healthcare and information (due to language and financial barriers, for example), having limited autonomy (like children and older people in assisted living), and having different cultural and social values are all examples of what experts call social determinants of health. 

According to the World Health Organization, social determinants of health, like those listed above, can have a greater impact on health than healthcare or personal choices. Research shows that social determinants of health account for a significant percentage (an estimated 30-55%) of health outcomes.

Why You Should Prioritize Health for a Better Life

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Here's what you'll find in our full Year of Yes summary:

  • The story of a woman who said "yes" to every opportunity for a year
  • How to go from surviving to full-hearted thriving
  • Why you shouldn't be uncomfortable with receiving praise

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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