As a nutrition student and now-dietitian, one of the most frequent comments I get when sharing about my career is, “Oh, can you help me lose weight?” Through my own intuitive eating journey and my current work with disordered eating/eating disorders, I have come to realize that weight is a very, very complex issue — not just physical by any means. The desire to lose weight can be rooted in various other desires, many of which point to deeper struggles that have nothing to do with appearance.
If you currently feel the need to shed some pounds — whether it’s 2 or 200 — I would urge you to do a couple of things.
1. Explore your why
We are not solely physical beings. The way we think and feel is intricately tied to what we believe about ourselves, the circumstances going on in our lives, our past experiences, and more. Be honest with yourself for a second and ask, “Why do I really want to lose weight?” Wonder whether the reason could be…
- You have a poor view of yourself as a whole that manifests itself in negative body image. It is very rare to find someone who dislikes their body but truly likes themselves. A saying I repeat often is this: Weight loss will never cure negative self-image. If you are a Christian, know that when the Bible says your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), it means right now…not when you have lost weight. Are you perhaps holding on to the belief that you can become worthy through weight loss?
- Your body naturally looks different than the culturally ideal body, and you’re not okay with that. I recently posted an article about set point theory, which is a concept holding that we all have a genetically predetermined body shape/weight. This looks different for everyone, and I hate to break it to you, but the majority of people do not have a set point that will put you in our culture’s current “perfect body.” I think there is so much beauty in how different people’s bodies are — each body is an expression of the uniqueness yet sameness of the human race. You can embrace your body or spend your life fighting it — your choice.
- Weight loss and/or dieting is a way to gain control in a life that feels out of control. Many times, our desire to lose weight is tied to a stressful recent life change. It can be both a positive or negative stressor — a move, new marriage, pregnancy, job change, broken relationship, etc. When we look deep down, we find that we just want to have control over something, and it has nothing to do with our weight. This might even be connected to a childhood trauma that made us feel out of control. In any of these cases, weight loss will not be a helpful solution.
2. Recognize the lack of proven sustainable options targeting weight loss.
I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating — to date, there is no proven method to lose weight and effectively keep it off for more than five years. 95% of dieters regain lost weight, and often more. (And when I say “dieter,” I’m not only including classic diets like keto, Paleo, and low-carb, but also calorie/macro counters, Weight Watchers, and basically anything that involves rules about what/when you can eat).
To date, there is no proven method to lose weight and effectively keep it off for more than five years.
The diet industry thrives on giving us false hope that we can be the exception. But dieting is often far more dangerous than it is helpful — I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen who started off innocently dieting and now have a full-blown eating disorder. And even for those who don’t have diagnosable eating problems, developing the habit of not listening to your body, becoming obsessive with exercise/fitness tracking routines, and having a hyper-focus on how your body looks can be extremely damaging to relationships and other life pursuits.
I understand that it can be difficult to come to terms with the absence of a successful method to lose weight. Often times there is a true grieving process of letting go of your ideal body when you recognize the cost is too high. But in the end, it is so worth it to have the freedom to live the life you were made for.
My stance on weight loss.
I take a neutral approach to weight loss. This means that I view weight as an outcome rather than a choice. I am much more concerned with helping people heal their relationship with food and their bodies than helping them lose weight. If you’re wondering how I call myself a health professional with that stance, know two things:
- The evidence that weight causes health problems is much less convincing than we’ve been told — see Health At Every Size for a new perspective.
- I consider “health” to include mental, emotional, and spiritual facets. I am interested in helping people journey towards wholeness in all of these areas, and I believe intuitive eating is the way to do that, especially for those with a history of struggling with weight/food.
If weight loss happens when someone learns to eat intuitively, so be it. If not, I am still neutral. It may actually be impossible to be truly healthy when weight is your first priority. I fully believe it is possible to be healthy without focusing on losing weight, so if you’re reading this, you have permission to release that desire. In the absence of an obsession with weight and body, there is life and joy waiting for you.
How can I connect with you?
If you’re wondering how you could ever let go of an obsession with weight, your body, or food, I am here to help! I am now offering private nutrition counseling services and will soon be starting an intuitive eating skills group. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.