How can you lose weight if you buy into myths and antiquated thinking?
From a young age, we’re told if we eat right and exercise more we can lose weight. We’re also told that our weight defines our health, and that skinny is beautiful, therefore, we should strive to lose weight. We can’t ever be thin enough.
Magazines sell tips to lose 7 pounds in 14 days. The radio blasts commercials about “cool sculpting” your fat. And your co-worker raves about her keto diet.
So many people dedicate their lives to the quest for weight loss, getting caught in the destructive cycle of dieting. They restrict food and increase exercise. Then, they eventually mess up, binge, feel guilty, and fall off the bandwagon completely. Starting again over and over resulting in a weight-loss, weight-regain pattern.
What isn’t talked about is that striving to lose weight typically causes more harm than good. The focus on losing weight is everywhere. But how can you lose weight if none of these diets work for you? And what if you don’t actually need to lose weight? What if you only think you do because you’ve bought into the idea that a size 2 will always be better and more beautiful than a size 12?
There’s not a single medical study to prove that any diet is sustainable long-term
Actually, studies show that dieting is a consistent predictor of weight gain.
Why isn’t this information on the cover of magazines? There’s a 60 billion dollar diet industry that profits from the vicious cycle of dieting. Lots of money is made by preying on the yearning desire for the dream body that will lead to the perfect life.
We aren’t told that the best thing we can actually do for our health is to ditch the scale and begin to accept, respect, and love our bodies and ourselves. There isn’t much encouragement to make peace with food and discover movement that we love. We haven’t been told to take care of ourselves holistically from a weight-neutral approach. The body positivity movement is gaining momentum, but there’s still so much education that needs to happen.
Let the conversation begin by debunking common weight myths
It’s time to spread the word about the Health at Every Size research, spearheaded by Linda Bacon, Ph.D. The following information is from the article Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift and the book, Body Respect both authored by Linda Bacon, Ph.D., and Lucy Aphramor. Ph.D., RD.
Myth #1: Fat causes early death.
Truth: According to Bacon and Aphramor, “except at statistical extremes, body mass index (BMI) – or amount of body fat – only weakly predicates longevity. Most epidemiological studies find that people who are overweight or moderately obese live at least as long as people who maintain a ‘normal’ weight, and often longer.”
Furthermore, the largest nationally representative study of United States adults showed that being slightly overweight was actually associated with greater longevity than being of average weight.
Myth #2: You can’t be fat and fit.
Truth: In Bacon and Aphramor’s book, Body Respect, they discuss a large sum of data collected by the renowned Cooper Institute in Dallas, which focuses on preventing disease. This data found that “the death rate for women and men who are thin but unfit is at least twice as high as for their heavier counterparts (those in the “obese” category) who are fit. In fact, across every category of body composition, unfit individuals have a much higher death rate than those who are fit, regardless of what they weigh. Fitness appears to be the key factor in providing protection, not what you weigh.”
You can live in a larger body and be fit.
Myth #3: Dieting is good for my health.
Evidence: According to Bacon and Aphramor, “attempts to lose weight typically result in weight cycling [weight loss and regain], and such attempts are more common among obese individuals. Weight cycling results in increased inflammation, which in turn is known to increase the risk for many obesity-associated diseases. Other potential mechanisms by which weight cycling contributes to morbidity include hypertension, insulin resistance, and dyslipidemia. Research also indicates that weight fluctuation is associated with poorer cardiovascular outcomes and increased mortality risk.”
Myth #4: Fat causes hypertension
Evidence: Bacon and Aphramor found that obese women who dieted had high blood pressure, while obese women who had never dieted had normal blood pressure, further suggesting the harm and stress of weight cycling on the body.
They also say, “it is well documented that obese people with hypertension live significantly longer than thinner people with hypertension and have a lower risk of heart attack, stroke or early death.” Suggesting that fat can actually have protective qualities.
Myth #5: Weight loss prolongs life.
Evidence: Unfortunately, it’s the opposite. Research demonstrates that weight loss increases the risk of early death among obese individuals.
Myth #6: Anyone can lose weight and keep it off if they work hard enough.
Evidence: Almost everyone who diets and loses weight regains it. Bacon and Aphramor note that the weight regain happens even when they maintain their diet or exercise program.
“A panel of experts convened by the National Institutes of Health determined that ‘one third to two thirds’ of the weight is regained within one year [after weight loss], and almost all is regained after five years. More recent reviews find one-third to two-thirds of dieters regain more weight than was lost on their diets.”
So if dieting isn’t the solution, what can we do for our health?
- Gently put your desired weight-loss goals on the back burner. Bonus points for ditching the scale. Instead of thinking about how can you lose weight, embrace the weight you are and be the healthiest version of yourself.
- Begin to accept and respect your body. Remind yourself that bodies were meant to come in all shapes and sizes. You can be healthy and live a long, incredible life in the body you have right now. It’s time to realize your self-worth is not related to your size.
- Start to listen to your body more. Start to notice your hunger and fullness cues and how different foods make you feel. Hint: Yoga is a great way to become more aware of the internal experience of your body.
- Honor your body’s cues. When you’re hungry, eat. When you’re full, acknowledge that too.
- Make peace with food. Research shows that when we have full permission to eat any and all food, we feel more empowered by food. Choose foods that make you feel good, and stop eating when we’re full.
- Find movement that you love. Research consistently shows that activity level is strongly associated with longevity. Want to live longer? Move your body more often. When you find ways to move that you love, you’re more likely to move more consistently.
- Prioritize sleep (at least 7 hours) and develop ways to cope with stress.
There is so much support out there for changing the mindset of how can you lose weight to embracing a healthy lifestyle. Find a certified intuitive eating counselor or an intuitive eating, health at every size-based health coach. Let’s keep this conversation going and our attitudes about size and health changes for the better.