In my last post, I talked about why body shaming sucks and why we should be more focused on overall health than the number on the scale. And although this is true, sometimes it is necessary to focus on losing weight in order to be healthier. First and foremost, we need to love ourselves for exactly who we are right now, not who we want to be or what we want to look like. And there are times when part of loving ourselves means striving to be the healthiest version of ourselves, which can include weight loss.
It is well understood that having excess weight past what is normal for your body increases the risk of many negative health outcomes including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancer, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, metabolic syndrome, and more. These risk factors are real and it is something to consider when choosing to love yourself as best you can.
When considering weight loss, it is necessary to understand your normal. The weight at which your body functions best. (Not found on a magazine cover or what your Crossfit instructor looks like.) Some of the traditional ways of defining overweight and obesity can be misleading and incorrect. BMI (weight divided by height) alone is not a proper indicator of health and neither is simply the number on the scale. In order to determine if your weight is affecting your health, always look at the whole picture. What your doctor says, the input from a dietitian, blood tests, a decrease in ability to do simple activities, etc can all help you determine if losing weight will be beneficial for you.
So, it is determined that you need to lose some weight. Where do you even begin? Your coworker says he lost weight by skipping breakfast and lunch every day and your sister says she started running marathons and the weight fell off. You’d rather die than give up breakfast and I’m sorry what? in regards to marathons. There are many ways to lose weight; some of them can set you up for long-term success and others are the perfect way to throw off your metabolism for life. Throughout my past 3 years in school, I have learned a lot of what not to do. The list below includes some of what I have learned.
10 THINGS NOT TO DO WHEN TRYING TO LOSE WEIGHT
1. DO IT FOR SOMEONE OTHER THAN YOURSELF
“She won’t love me if I don’t look like a greek god.” “He will never fully accept me until I lose 50 pounds.” If we are trying to lose weight to fit someone else’s idea of what we should look like, we will never see success. Weight loss is hard and takes lots of work, if the motivation doesn’t come from inside you, the reality of it happening is slim to none. Before trying to lose weight, ask yourself if the reason you are doing it is for you. (This is different than wanting to lose weight to be healthy for your children or wanting to be the best version of yourself for your significant other, for example.)
2. GO ON A RESTRICTIVE DIET
Think long-term juice cleanses, or intermittent fasting with a major decrease in calories. When we severely restrict food intake, we are essentially slowing down our metabolism which makes it harder to keep the weight off once we stop restricting. If you don’t use it, you lose it. Once you stop eating as much as you should, your body adapts to that level of energy and will do all it can to conserve what you do eat. And then once you return to eating as usual, your body will hold onto those excess calories and save them for when you decide to starve it again. This is why most people will regain all of the weight they lost, and usually more, shortly after stopping a diet.
3. ADOPT AN UNSUSTAINABLE EATING PATTERN
If you can’t maintain the eating pattern for life, research would recommend not doing it in the first place. Can you imagine never eating breakfast again? Can you not eat chocolate cake for the rest of your life (kill me now)? Do you want to continue paying for expensive weight loss supplements for the next 50 years? The diet you adopt should be a long-term change in behavior. Because once you go back to your previous way of eating, the weight will come back too.
4. CUT OUT FAT
Because we need fat to live. And it will keep you fuller for longer. Although the type of fat to focus on is an important consideration to make. Trans fats (think margarine, fried foods, processed foods) should be eaten sparingly as, in high amounts, they can significantly increase a person’s risk for chronic inflammation and heart disease. Saturated fats (animal products) have been given a bad rap in the past, but they are making a comeback now, which is great because they have many important health qualities.
5. CUT OUT CARBS
Because fiber. And vitamins and minerals. And the tiny detail that they are the preferred source of energy for our bodies. And our brains consume ~20% of our glucose. Which is why if you have ever cut out cards you may feel confused, foggy, irritable, and tired. You brain is begging for fuel. Basically, whenever you cut out an entire food group from your life, you are at risk for a plethora of vitamin, mineral, and other nutrient deficiencies. Plus I don’t understand what life is without bread.
6. RELY ON GOOGLE FOR ADVICE
There is a lot of good information to be found on the web, but there is also a lot of crap. When considering losing weight, consult a professional first. Weight loss is super individualized and is based on preferences, metabolism, the presence of disease/disorder states, specific personal nutrient needs, etc. Be sure to check with your doctor and/or a dietitian before starting weight loss to make sure you do so safely and healthfully.
7. SET WAY TOO HIGH OF EXPECTATIONS
Weight loss is hard. Continued weight loss is harder. It can oftentimes take a complete lifestyle change including nutrition, exercise, sleep, and your stress level. Be patient with yourself and know that it is a long-term goal. To healthfully lose weight and keep it off in the future, aim for no more than a loss of 1-2 pounds a week. The chance of you regaining the weight increases with a weekly loss of more than this.
8. CALORIE COUNT
Because this is so time consuming. And is enough to drive anyone crazy. And can often be inaccurate if you ever eat out, go to a friend’s for dinner, or cook your own food.
9. PAY FOR WEIGHT LOSS PRODUCTS, SUPPLEMENTS, ETC
A well-balanced diet typically costs far less than weight loss products or supplements and are much healthier and tastier than products made with the intention of weight loss. Businesses sell these products and they have to make money. Marketing can say a lot, and a lot of what they promise can be untrue. Plus is the company’s “sugar-free” lemon cake the dessert you want for the rest of your life? Probably not because it probably sucks. Save your money and eat real food!
10. NO LONGER ENJOYING FOOD
If you realize you are no longer enjoying food because you are so focused on how it will affect your weight, then something is not right. Food should be one of the greatest enjoyments in life and once it becomes something other than that is when it is time to make a change. Reconnecting with your inner hunger cues and simply paying attention to what you are eating when you are eating can help. Remember that just because you allow yourself to enjoy your food doesn’t mean you will lose all control and gain all of the weight. Relaxing around food is the first step to having a positive relationship with both your weight and food itself and is something we should all strive for.