Weight loss at any cost will likely not improve your health, nor your self confidence. The reason is that most individuals who lose weight, will re-gain it over the course of five years. A major shift in our attitudes (of the professional and public spheres) is urgently needed because we are not getting smaller or healthier with all this weight loss focused mania.
I should clarify why I promote health over weight loss here on Foods and Thoughts. Please feel free to share your thoughts after reading.
Losing weight and improving your health are not the same thing.
It’s imperative that we as healthcare providers emphasize sustainable lifestyle modification rather than the “weight loss at any cost” attitude. I wrote a more detailed article on why weight is not necessarily the answer to our health concerns here. Please be sure to have a read before you continue with this article.
Weight tends to be a symptom of lifestyle imbalance rather than a cause of chronic health conditions. Blaming weight for chronic health conditions is like describing yellow teeth as the cause for lung cancer.
There are specific nutrition interventions which can help with managing diabetes, dyslipidemia, high blood pressure, digestive concerns, as well as improving athletic performance without necessarily changing weight.
Weight loss means dieting (most of the time)
Why do we diet? The reasons are typically for health or for vanity. As I mentioned in a previous article, diets don’t work. Dieting has actually been positively associated with an increased rate of cravings, binge eating, weight gain and eating disorder development. These consequences of dieting are linked to an increased risk for chronic health problems.
We are not all born to be the same size, despite what the media suggests. Our bodies cannot be molded into any shape or form we like; can you make yourself taller or shorter? No. Improving the quality of your diet along with regular joyful physical activity are the lifestyle factors which can improve your quality of life – no weight loss needed.
When we are informed that weight loss is part (large or small) of how we can improve these conditions, this can become all we hear. “Weight loss at any cost” can take someone’s attention away from improving the quality of their diet in strategic and sustainable ways.
A focus on health fuels intrinsic motivation
Intrinsic motivation is when you do something for internal reward, either because you find it interesting or enjoyable. It brings you satisfaction to know you are eating well to better your health. You run because it clears your mind and connects you with your body. You knit because you find it satisfying to produce something handmade.
Extrinsic motivation is when you do something for fear of a negative consequence; i.e. to avoid a consequence or punishment. This also includes seeking out external rewards like the approval of others. You join a bootcamp which starts at 6:00 am every morning to try to lose weight. You order a salad because all of your friends who are also dieting would leer at you if you didn’t.
As you can likely tell from these examples, being intrinsically motivated is a lot more powerful and sustainable than extrinsic motivation. It’s also more likely to bring your satisfaction and joy.
So here’s the bottom line:
The relationship between health and weight is not as clear as it’s made out to be. There is no definitive method for individuals to achieve effective and sustained weight loss. The act of dieting itself has physical and psychological consequences. Focusing on building goals which stem from intrinsic sources is much more powerful than goals which stem from extrinsic sources.
It’s for these reasons why the three main objectives in my practice include:
- Health improvement
- Body acceptance
- Self compassion
Have you noticed any friend or family member who has yo-yo dieted in the past?
What do you do right now as a result of intrinsically motivation?
What do you do right now as a result of extrinsic motivation?