The obsession with weight loss is prevalent in mainstream health, from the doctor’s office to our wellness culture. Let’s rethink your perspective on being healthy that involves more than a number on the scale.
BY: VINCCI TSUI, RD
Perhaps you’ve read the research on how diets don’t work. Perhaps you’ve dieted your whole life and can’t bear to put yourself through another round of the diet-binge cycle, or the weight rollercoaster. Maybe you feel mad or frustrated that you’ve been lied to this whole time; that you’ve been given tools that not only don’t work, but actually do the opposite of what they claim to do.
No matter what brought you here, you feel stuck and ask yourself:
If dieting doesn’t work, then what does? If you can’t lose weight, how can you be healthy?
Consider these 3 different paths to pursuing health without focusing on weight.
1. Pursue your true values.
As naturally social creatures, it can be easy for us to take on other people’s values and desires without realizing that they’re not necessarily our own. Think back to what motivated you to want to lose weight in the first place – was it something that you really wanted for yourself, or did it come from somewhere else, like a well-meaning family member, friend, personal trainer, or health professional?
Even if it did come from within, like a desire for health or to fit in (literally and figuratively), is trying to manage your weight really the best way to live according to those values?
This is exactly why it’s important to find out what you value.
What do you really want in life? And if you’re feeling stuck, a quick Google of “values list” will bring up lots of different ideas. The pursuit of weight loss often steals your time, money, energy, brain space, and so on. Free up your mental capacity to pursue more out of life.
2. Let go of (and let yourself grieve) unrealistic ideals
With weight loss, you are likely pursuing an ideal that your body is fighting against. However, letting go of dieting and weight loss can be uncomfortable and difficult, to say the least. You may have been dieting since childhood, or perhaps even built a career or reputation out of your body size, eating and lifestyle habits, or perceived health. You probably have close friends and family members who are still dieting.
As with any loss, it’s normal to go through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It’s normal for these stages to happen out of order, to be repeated, and/or to happen at the same time. You may also find yourself grieving other things like, the praise you get for losing weight or eating “healthy”, the high of seeing a lower number on the scale, the camaraderie in swapping weight loss tips with your friends or colleagues, or relationships that you realize no longer serve you. This work is difficult, and it’s part of what makes it so hard to stick with it, but the freedom and peace you will feel as you heal your relationship with food and with your body will be worth it.
3. Care for your body, just as you are
Contrary to popular belief, weight loss is not equivalent to good health. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for health professionals to tell their larger patients to lose weight for a myriad of reasons.
So the next time that occurs, reply with: “That’s all well and good, but obviously weight loss would take time (or you might even say statistically improbable, if you’re feeling bold.) What can I do for myself that cares for my body right now?” If the health professional needs an extra poke, you may add, “What do you tell your thin patients who have the same condition as me?”
Adapt this same line of thinking for everyday use by asking yourself this same question every day. “What can I do to care for myself right now?” “What can I do to get closer to having my needs met right now?” “How can I help myself to feel good/better right now?”
These may seem like simple questions, but it can be difficult if you’ve put your life on hold until you reached a certain size or weight, or if you’re in the habit of putting others’ needs before your own.
It’s OK if you don’t get it all right away. It’s OK if it takes years for you to get it. Make space to ask yourself what you need, feel the discomfort of your grief, and stay true to your values.
And if it’s a value for you, it is possible to pursue health without focusing on weight.
Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: LISA FOTIOS
Vincci Tsui, RD is a former bariatric dietitian turned certified Intuitive Eating counselor and Health At Every Size(r) advocate. Based in Calgary, Canada, Vincci specializes in helping people untangle their messy relationships with food and their body, and works with individuals in-person and virtually through her private practice. Read more from Vincci at www.vinccitsui.com.