I deal with the topic of weight loss in some fashion or another nearly every day. Most of the time it’s with my patients in the office. It doesn’t matter why they’re in to see me. It’s “Thanks so much for treating my sinus infection. By the way, how do I lose weight?” or “Yes, I want a flu shot and also, can I get a prescription for weight loss medicine?” And if it’s not at work, it’s listening to a girlfriend, family member or another parent talk about the latest diet or exercise program they’re trying. It doesn’t bother me. Part of the reason I started this blog is to provide sound resources, guidance, and encouragement to so many out there looking for ways to improve their health. What I’ve found, however, is a significant misunderstanding about weight and what’s known about weight loss. With that, I’m sharing 10 things I think you should know before trying to lose weight.
- Weight is only one measurement, and it’s not even the most important one. Morbid obesity is associated with many health problems including heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. But it’s not a direct cause and effect relationship. Your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, family history, and many other factors contribute to your metabolic health and are better markers than weight alone. Weight is probably the least important of these measurements when it comes to your overall health.
- Feeling good is more important than looking good. If your only goal is weight loss, there’s a good chance you’ll overlook the many other benefits of exercise and eating well. Feeling better, sleeping better, having more energy to keep up with your kids without feeling exhausted are all things you might experience before seeing or maybe without ever seeing results on the scale. When people give up healthy habits because they aren’t achieving weight loss, they’re giving up on all these other benefits, too. I’d rather you be 15 pounds heavier and experience energy, quality sleep, and a better mood because of exercising and eating well.
- Stress is bad for you. Chronic stress is REALLY bad for you. Yo-yo dieting, overexercising, not eating enough, not sleeping enough, and any other extreme habit for the sake of weight loss all contribute to stress. This has a detrimental impact on your health. Weight loss at the expense of increased stress does more harm than good.
- Permanent weight loss is possible, but it’s really freaking hard. Very few people have actually accomplished losing a significant amount of weight and kept it off. Not because it’s impossible, but because it takes a lot of self-discipline, sacrifice, and time. It doesn’t happen overnight, in fact, it takes months or even years. Having this realistic expectation is important if weight loss is something you’re striving for.
- Expecting a temporary change to have a lasting result isn’t going to work. As cliche as it sounds, it has to be a lifestyle change. Doing any program, be it Keto, Weight Watchers, Profile, low carb, or any other plan for a short period of time is very likely to give you initial results, sometimes rather significant. Those results will inevitably dwindle if you don’t continue components of that plan long term. You can’t “reset” your weight then expect to do whatever you want and keep that weight off. The people I’ve witnessed have the best success have found ways to incorporate the most important aspects of any particular diet long term.
- Calories in versus Calories out is not at the answer. The only proof you need is looking back at how well this advice has worked for our enlarging population over the last 50 years. Or you can read an entire blog post I wrote on this. All calories are not created equal-100 calories from M&Ms are not the same as 100 calories from almonds. Our bodies are not calculators, they are complex machines that adapt and compensate.
- Any diet can cause weight loss. You probably realize this, because you know different people who have lost weight on different diets. So it gets confusing trying to figure out which one is right. While initially, this doesn’t make a lot of sense- how can low fat and low carb both be effective? How can Paleo and plant-based diets both be utilized for weight loss? The answer is any controlled environment that regulates calories and activity can cause weight loss. But what happens after you stop controlling for calories (for example when you stop the diet, or when you start eating as much as you want within the parameters of a diet or stop exercising)? The weight comes back on. And because most diets aren’t sustainable long term, this is inevitably what happens for most people.
- The all or nothing mentality will fail you. Even the most disciplined individual isn’t going to get it right 100 percent of the time. You can’t eat a piece of your kids Halloween candy then say “Screw it, I’m just going to eat 10 more.” This is probably one of the most important concepts to grasp. You wouldn’t forget to brush your teeth in the morning then say “screw it, I’m not brushing my teeth tonight either.” You make a decision to eat healthily and exercise most of the time, and learn to incorporate and indulge in the occasional treat.
- If you’ve tried and failed, it’s not because you’re lazy or a failure. It’s actual biology. When you diet or lose weight, your body senses this and hormones are released which stimulate hunger and slow down metabolism. This is your body’s way of preventing starvation. In order to bypass these signals, you have to willfully ignore them and suffer through being hungry and tired while trying to eat less and move more. And if you succumb to these hormone signals (as your body was designed to do), you end up overeating and regain the weight back, often plus some. This is how yo-yo dieting works. What is basic physiology gets spun around as lack of self-control and a stigma on being fat.
- Your weight has nothing to do with your value as a person. Nothing. Let that sink in for a second because I know it seems cliche, but it is TRUE. You were made in the image your creator and nothing changes that. Don’t be mean to yourself. Give yourself grace. Strive to be the healthiest version of yourself, because you are worthy of that. But know that you’re a child of God and He loves you no. matter. what. We’re not going to look back on anyone’s life and say “They were so skinny” or “they looked so good in a bathing suit.” We’re going to think of the impact they had on their friends and family, how loved they were, and the difference they made in this world. There’s nothing morally wrong with wanting to lose weight, but make sure it’s for the right reasons and don’t let your weight distract you from who you really are.
For more tips and general information about becoming the healthiest version of yourself, check out other articles on the Nutrition and Wellness page of Village Farm Life.