The number one request I have as a dietitian is for help with weight loss. As an expert on food and nutrition, I am well-equipped to help a person eat better. I am happy to help a client begin to take better care of themselves with respect to eating (in fact, it’s my passion!) Weight loss, however, I do not promise, or even track, in my work with adults. Why not?
All of our bodies are different; we come in different heights, builds, frame sizes. Some of us weigh more than others. Our bodies tightly regulate weight through a delicate dance of hormones and metabolic adjustments. However, some of us weigh more than nature intended, as a result of past dieting. In fact, weight loss dieting almost always makes a person fatter, not thinner, in the long-run.
On my professional experience, when we are tempted to attempt weight loss in order to feel better in our bodies (or in our lives), we are falling into a big fat trap. Often, even with huge positive improvements to eating habits and selection of highly nutritious foods, a person will not lose the weight. Or weight loss will start, and then suddenly hit a wall. What happens then? Negative self image, negative self talk. “What’s wrong with me, I will never be able to get this under control.” Self blame. “I have no will power, why did I buy so many Halloween treats? I cannot be trusted with any sweets in the house!” Or perhaps we blame the diet, the plan, so over to the next new diet craze we go. In the meantime, we’ve built up more resentment towards our bodies, and possibly lost and regained weight in a short amount of time, which only signals the body to even more fiercely hold on to the extra pounds the next time around. In other words, the war continues. And we are losing!
Sometimes a person will find a way to lose the weight and become slim, but negative self image and negative self talk does not miraculously disappear with the extra pounds. If we dislike our bodies, at any size, there are probably other things we dislike about our selves, too. Eventually, unless we work on accepting our whole selves, from the inside out, the weight will come back. We think we deserve to be fat.
You see, weight stigma is entrenched in our culture. Fat people are assumed to be lazy, uneducated, unmotivated, unable to get their lives under control. These stereotypes run so deep, that we unconciously apply them to ourselves and our own lives. If we are living in a large body, we see it as a problem to be fixed. Read this week’s article describing Obesity Canada’s views on weight bias here.
“But what about health?” we cry. “Surely being overweight is not healthy?” It is true that many of today’s top chronic diseases are associated with obesity. But scientists will be the first to point out that association is not causation. Let’s break it down. Eating better can improve your health. It may lower your blood pressure, it may help keep your blood sugars controlled, it can help you feel more energized, and improve digestive woes. But recognize, eating better may or may not result in weight loss. And weight loss may or may not result in improved health outcomes. You see, it’s the eating better part that is directly tied to health. Which is actually great, because it’s the eating better part that we can control. Physical fitness is another one we can directly control. But weight … Remember those tightly regulated hormones and metabolic adjustments? Weight is controlled by the body; caloric intake and expenditure are only two of a myriad of factors that end up determining a body’s weight.
When I’ve worked with clients in the past under the weight loss agenda, I saw the same sad story repeat itself every time. My client would be doing well with eating, having made many sustainable changes: eating at more regular times, making plans to feed themselves, including a balance of nutrients in meals and snacks, even finding a happy place with regards to including sweets and treats. But get them on the scale…. All of a sudden they are failing. They want to give up. “What’s the point?” And so slowly (or suddenly) they give up. All the healthy habits they have built, out the window. On to the next weight loss diet plan. (After a period of feeling like a failure and eating ice cream directly out of the tub, of course)
What’s the moral of the story here? Change the way you think about yourself. Don’t start eating better based on an ever-elusive promise of weight loss. Don’t fall into that big fat trap… Unless you want to eat better for a little while, then give up, then eat worse for a while to make up for your injured pride, and end up back where you started. Don’t be fooled! There is another way.
Start eating better for you. For health, for satisfaction, for the way it makes you feel, for the role model it sets to your family and friends. Many of us have past food issues, and misunderstandings about nutrition based on bad information that abounds. Many of us need help, and a plan to get us better set up for eating well. I can help you with that. No scale required.