It’s time we separate our weight and health.
One of the biggest challenges I see on the journey to improved health and wellbeing is the focus on weight loss.
I know this may sound a little (or a lot) wild, but we’ve gone far too long measuring our health by our weight. Worse, we believe weight loss alone will make us healthier.
While there may be a correlation between weight and health, we don’t have clear evidence that weight loss alone improves health. Studies that show improvement in health markers associated with weight change can rarely isolate benefits of weight loss from the behaviors that accompanied the change.
In other words - it’s likely the behavior change rather than the weight change that created the health improvements.
For example, if someone started eating more fruits and vegetables, they may lose weight, they may not. Either way, they may end up with other health benefits such as lower cholesterol or blood pressure. This shows us that the improved health markers are a result of the behavior (eating fruits and veggies) rather than weight change.
There is also plenty of evidence that people in larger bodies can improve their health without changing their weight and the focus on weight frequently does more harm than good.
5 Reasons to Separate Weight and Health
1. Weight is an external indicator
When we give our attention to the number on the scale to assess “progress,” we disconnect from our bodies and the cues they are giving us.
This can lead to behaviors that don’t actually feel supportive to our bodies. We may even miss important indicators that something may be doing more harm than good.
Ultimately, a focus on weight loss can interfere with learning how to best care for our bodies.
2. Weight loss activities often have negative health effects
The things we do to lose weight are often contra-indicated for long-term health.
- Calorie restriction
- Cutting out entire food groups
- Exercising beyond what’s safe and supportive
- Ignoring hunger cues
- Resisting physical and emotional cravings
- Denying ourselves pleasure
- Foregoing rest
- The list goes on…
3. The mental drain is REAL
So much brain power and mental energy going to questions like:
- Can I have that?
- How many points is that?
- Should I? Shouldn’t I?
- Maybe this once?
- What’s the scale going to say?
And then the follow up mental talk: I’m “off track,” “I shouldn’t have had that.” “I’m failing…”
And the tracking. Oh dear, the endless tracking.
These thoughts and activities are almost always included in plans and programs that are in pursuit of weight loss - not health gain.
One of the healthiest things you can do is give your brain a break!
4. Our bodies are hard-wired to maintain weight
It’s a biological adaptation that has allowed the survival of the human species during times of famine (no small feat! And an accomplishment I don’t think the body gets enough credit for!)
So, it’s completely natural that weight loss eventually slows, stops, or reverses.
And in those cases, we feel like we failed and frequently ditch the health-promoting behaviors we were engaging in. This is a clear indicator that the behaviors were more in pursuit of weight loss than health gain.
5. Weight loss rarely lasts
Long-term weight loss from diets is very rarely maintained for more than 1-3 years and for most people, not even for 6 months. Studies show that long-term weight loss isn’t an achievable goal for most people, but health can improve even when weight doesn’t change.
Simple Tips for separating weight and health
1. Check in with how you feel every day instead of what you weigh.
2. Resist the urge to talk about weight when having conversations about health.
3. Check in with your body instead of a meal plan to tell you when, what, and how much to eat, move, rest, etc.
I’d love to hear from you on this one. Shoot me an email and let me know what stood out for you.