Most of you would probably know by now that I’m not one of those Dietitians that prescribes a calorie controlled meal plan. An appointment with me involves talking about your lifestyle, and general up or down trends in your weight, but we don’t talk numbers. There’s not even a pair of scales in my office. Seriously.
Because here’s the thing: your health isn’t just about your weight.
It can be scary to say that and to practice in this manner – for me and for you. Letting go of the need to put weight loss goals front and center runs counter intuitive to everything that our society tells us about fatness, health and likeability.
Being “healthy” or not is determined by SO MANY factors. Yes, weight is one of these factors but so are all these:
yeah, its complicated!
While I was a student, I found that by focusing on weight, we (both me and my patient) held it up as the most important factor in someone’s treatment. Other positive changes made to lifestyle often came secondary to the weight loss, or lack there of. Someone’s success or failure was completely pinned on their effort to lose weight.
Which is crazy. Your health is so much MORE that your weight.
There is also not a skerrick of evidence to say that weight loss works for people in the long term.
None. Zip. Nada.
95% of people who go on a diet, regain the weight they have lost
of those, two thirds will actually end up heavier than they were before they dieted
LCHF, atkins, Paleo, south beach, clean eating, ketosis, sugar free, weight watchers, jenny craig, low carb, high carb, high protein 5:2, you name it, and I can guarantee you that there is no evidence to support their use long term.
What about short term you ask? Yes, you will lose weight on any of these diets, in the short term. Outside of Medical Nutritional Therapy, in which I use my dietietic skills to make temporary changes to someone’s diet for medical reasons, I am not interested in short term health.
I’m interested in your long term health. When you see me, I am interested in setting you up so that you can experience good health for the rest of your life, and this is so much more that fitting into the “normal” category according to the BMI.
Read the statistics again. Even if the way to “better health” in the short term is a weight loss diet, there’s a very good chance your weight will end up where it is now or higher. What tends to happen, then, is people swap from diet to diet, hoping with every swap that the new diet will be the answer. Often people become more and more restrictive in the process, and this is never healthy. Believe it or not, dieting is the biggest risk factor for developing an eating disorder. Eating disorders do not discriminate, they affect all genders, all ages, all backgrounds and all sizes and weights.
In addition to all of this…weight loss is rarely ever just about the physical shrinkage of fat. When people come to me asking for weight loss advice they are often really saying to me:
- I want to like my body
- I want to be comfortable in my body
- I want to like the way I look
- I want to be loved
- I want to be accepted
- I want to be more confident
- I want to be happy
- I want to go to Bali/get married/go skydiving
- I want to prove my bullies wrong
- I want to be healthy
Guess what? NONE of those things actually have anything to do with your weight. Losing weight is not going to solve your life problems. Sorry.
You can start to like your body, be comfortable in your own skin and even like the way you look, at the weight you are right now. It starts with switching the focus from what your body looks like to what it does for you.
If you don’t feel loved and accepted at your current weight, that’s not on you to fix. That’s on the people around you who need to stop treating you like less of person because there is more of you. That is an asshat problem, not a weight problem.
Losing weight is not going to make you happier or more confident. It might make you feel better about yourself because people will pay you more attention and make comments about how good you look. See above. Maybe not an asshat problem as people are often unaware of how damaging their weight-centric comments can be, but still not a weight problem. If people only start liking you and being nice to you when you lose weight… you need to find new people to hang out with!
You can work on improving your health, at the weight you are right now. In fact, you can improve your health without changing your weight.
And yes, you can book that trip to Bali, right this minute. At the weight you are right now.
There’s lots we can do to improve your health, and let you get on with your life without focusing on losing weight.
You see, what I’m really trying to say is that I’m interested in getting to what’s going on underneath. To me, its more important that we address the root cause of the problem, rather than me sticking a bandaid over the problem by getting you to lose some weight. It’s messy, and it can be hard at times but it is absolutely worth it. As they say, you have to get in, to get out.
I’m interested in improving your wellbeing, not your weight. That isn’t to say that I am ani-weight loss or against weight loss altogether, it just means that I’m interesting in so much more than a number on the scales.