Your health is more than just about size or appearance, so it’s important to reshape your perspective when it comes to setting goals around it. Here are a few ways to do just that.
For many people, weight loss is one of the first things to pop in mind as they set goals to improve their health. It’s no secret that our culture idealizes thinness, and it makes total sense that people have a drive for it. But what’s really at the root of a desire for weight loss?
Usually it’s the desire to feel happy and healthy, which is completely understandable. But did you know the vast majority of those who intentionally lose weight gain it all back?
And many gain back more weight than they lost. In fact, dieting is associated with weight gain over time. And that’s not all: there are serious side effects associated with repeated weight loss attempts.
Weight cycling is when weight goes up and down, repeatedly. This is what happens when we attempt to control our weight, and our bodies don’t like it. Your metabolism will react defensively and try to protect the body from further weight loss. Some outcomes of weight cycling include:
- Decreased bone mass (increased risk for osteoporosis)
- Increased inflammation (increased risk for many chronic diseases)
- Increased mortality risk (greater chance of dying earlier)
In a nutshell, weight loss doesn’t equal health gain.
So if you’re not following food rules or focusing on your weight, what in the world do you focus on?
Research on weight neutral approaches, including Health At Every Size® (HAES®) and intuitive eating, find participants experience improvements in health without focusing on weight. These paradigms focus on body acceptance, and an improved reliance on internal hunger and satiety cues. Findings of this research have shown that these approaches can lead to:
- Greater body acceptance
- Improved self-care behaviors
- Weight maintenance
- Maintained or improved dietary quality
So now that you know weight loss is not a one-way ticket to happiness and health, what can you do to actually move closer to those goals?
Self-care doesn’t have to be bubble baths and massages — it’s whatever helps you feel good physically, emotionally and mentally. Make a list of what helps you unwind, feel energized or get centered, and work these things into your daily and weekly routines. Consider adding more sleep and time in nature, and less time on screens and social media.
Make a point to pay more attention to the present moment. When you’re stressed out, it’s often because you’re worried about something that happened in the past, or something you think is going to happen in the future.
When the desire to diet or lose weight comes up, dig deeper and ask yourself what’s really behind that desire. What can you do today to help yourself feel better? And what does “better” mean? Is it more energized, happier in your relationships, more fulfilled in your career?
3. Body Trust
Your body comes with complex and sophisticated mechanisms to help you thrive, so trust that it will help you no matter what. Rather than trying to control your body, work on listening to your body. Do you need to slow down? Do you need to move more? Do you need to drink more water? Do you need to eat more veggies?
Try practicing intuitive eating, which involves letting go of foods rules and restrictions, and focuses on tuning into your body’s internal hunger and fullness cues.
4. Body Acceptance
When you come from a place of acknowledgment rather than judgment, you’re well on your way to a healthier relationship with your body. If you feel like there is no way you could love your body today, that’s OK too. Try neutrally observing your body first, without any preconceived notions of what’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
Consider buying clothes that fit your current body and help you feel comfortable. Hit your local thrift store or search online for body-positive, ethical and inclusive clothing companies.
Focus on these instead, and you’ll soon find yourself gaining more out of life.
Adapted from the original article.
Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN is Chicago-based Registered Dietitian who helps others lead a life of compassion that improves their overall relationship with food, exercise, and their bodies. As an expert in eco-ethical and vegan lifestyles, she’s passionate about helping individuals end their struggle with food and live an unrestricted life in the kitchen. Learn more about Taylor at Whole Green Wellness.