I feel like I can't walk down the street, or have a meal with friends, or go to work, or check my social media without hearing or seeing the phrase "I want to lose weight".
Anyone that knows what I teach in my line of health coaching knows that I teach concepts such as "body positivity" and "Health at Every Size". Which means that I not only believe, but know from solid evidence, that anyone can be healthy regardless of size. In other words, that number on the scale doesn't determine whether or not you're healthy. There are plenty of other much more reliable determining factors (blood pressure, blood work, how you feel, etc.) that give some indication as to whether or not you're "healthy". Now I know that's a bold statement to make, but stay with me for a few minutes and I'll explain further...
So when we think to ourselves "gee, I want to be healthier!"...this thought usually follows... "I need to lose weight!" We're forgetting a major part of the process of getting "healthy", which is why I plan to address it now.
One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing someone say "I want to lose weight", and here is why...
But first-if you find yourself saying this phrase around me, don't apologize. I get it. I was there once. And sometimes I still want to go back to that place, for reasons I'll discuss in a minute. If you're making moves to change your life for the better, I'm gonna be happy for you. Regardless of whether or not you think that includes weight loss. So don't be afraid to be open and honest with me about your goals. I will support the healthy habits part of it, but don't expect me to say much about the weight loss part.
So here goes...a few reasons why I dislike the phrase "I want to lose weight" so deeply...
1) We go to extreme measures for weight loss that are unsustainable
Our bodies weren't designed for weight loss. In fact, for survival purposes they were built to hold onto weight as much as possible. We can gain weight easily, but losing weight can be extremely difficult, and long-term can actually make a negative impact on our health, because of the extreme measures we have to go through to sustain the weight loss.
In other words, our bodies are always evolving and outsmarting us. So while weight loss may have been super easy for your first few attempts, and you're wondering why that's not the case anymore...it's because your body has caught onto your efforts and is trying to protect you by making the weight loss harder each time.
So when you're doing things like "low carb" "paleo" "vegan" for weight loss purposes only, or you're in the gym 2 hours a day, 6 days a week. Uh, yeah you're gonna see results. But can you keep up that lifestyle? Cuz as soon as you go back to old ways, the weight is gonna jump right back on. If you're finding yourself saying things like "this is sooo hard" or "this sucks, I'm sooo hungry"....ya doin' it wrong. Being healthy is not supposed to hurt. It's supposed to feel great!
There's a way you can learn to nourish your body that feels soooo good all the time, and allows you to work with your body instead of against it. It's called intuitive eating. I'll write about it in another post, but for now email me at email@example.com to learn more.
2) We give up on our attempts and assume we're failures if the scale isn't budging
As I said in the first point, our bodies were not designed for weight loss. So achieving weight loss will be more difficult with each attempt. However, don't let that hold you back from wanting to treat your body well. If you're doing things like eating more nutritious foods (and I don't mean these "diet" processed foods and low fat, sugar free kinda shit)...if you're eating more veggies, or trying to eat more whole, fresh foods, and moving your body more...then you're already doing it right! No matter what the scale says.
Unless, as I said before, you're going to extreme measures such as cutting out whole food groups, cutting out carbs, etc. Forget what the freaking scale says. It doesn't measure how you feel, what your blood pressure is, the amount of energy you have, nothin'. It's simply a measure of your pull of gravity on this earth.
3) Health is about sooo much more than our weight, and we are so uneducated on that part
Even the medical "experts" are uneducated on the truth about weight loss and how it relates to health. Because we've correlated heavier weight with "poor health" and lower weight with "good health" we believe it's the end-all-be-all. But correlation does not mean causation, people!
Weight is a symptom. If you treat it like a symptom and you have weight to lose, you'll lose the weight without having to try. If you treat it like a symptom and you have weight to gain, you'll gain the weight. Your body will do the work for you! You just have to focus on working with your body and not against it, and implementing habits that truly support health.
Guess what? Thin people can be unhealthy or healthy. Fat people can be unhealthy or healthy. It's not about the size, it's about the habits.
4) We equate thinness to self-worth
I saved this one for last, because it's a big one...and probably the hardest for people (including me) to get over. As a young girl, I was chubby. I was teased incessantly, and basically led to believe I was worthless because of my body. Around the age of 15, I decided to lead myself through my first attempt at weight loss. Well, it worked. And from then on I was treated differently. Suddenly I was treated as if I was worthy. People that never batted an eye at my existence then wanted something to do with me.
From that experience, I was taught the lesson that my size determined my self-worth. From then on I went through a spiral of weight loss/gain and binge eating for the next 10 years, always obsessing over my weight and size and what it meant about me as a person...never finding my self-worth in my body. But that's for another time.
My point is, this is the message we're getting every single day! From the media, our friends, our mothers, our fathers, our doctors...you're not worthy enough until you're thin. Which is SO not freaking true, and as a society we need to do some work on that.
But how that relates to you right now is you think that thinness is some magical pill for happiness. It's not. And you might spend your whole life trying to figure that out. But I really hope not. Your worth is determined by YOU and how you feel about yourself. No one should have a say in that. Easier said than done, I know.
My goal here is to at least plant the seed in letting you know that skinny does not equal happy. Yes, thin people can be happy, and some are happy. But for reasons other than the fact that their body happens to look a certain way. You gotta find your worth in whatever size you happen to be right now, that's a step in the right direction.
Okay, so you might be thinking "Yeah, sure Lauren, sounds great...but if that's the case then "WHY DO I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER WHEN I LOSE WEIGHT? WHY DID MY BLOOD PRESSURE GO DOWN? ETC. ETC?" Awesome question!
As I said before...weight being a symptom...generally when we're "trying to lose weight" we're eating less processed foods, exercising more, etc...those are "health supporting behaviors". What happens though is because weight loss may come along with those habits, and because of the emphasis we put onto weight in the first place, we think the health improvement is due to the weight loss, and not the habit change! Which takes us down the rabbit hole of believing that losing weight is the ONLY way to improve health. Well, it's not.
After all of this, you might be asking.... "okay, so if I'm not trying to lose weight, what should I be doing?" Great question! Here are a few options to start out...
Sleep is one of the best things you can do for your health. Getting enough sleep is necessary for mood regulation, energy regulation, satiation when it comes to food, job performance, and the list goes on and on and on. The first thing you can do to improve your health is make sure you're getting at least 7 hours a night. Set a bed time for each night, and make it a non-negotiable. This habit alone can and has changed lives!
If you're constantly stressed, you're likely in fight-or-flight mode at all times which can cause issues such as adrenal fatigue, depression, irritability, problems with digestion, skin issues, and so much more. Lack of sleep can also be a major stressor, which is why you want to start with sleep and work your way down the list.
A few simple things you can implement now to combat stress throughout your day is to take a few moments to breathe deeply. Practice with me now...breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, breathe out 4 counts, hold 4 counts. Repeat that cycle for 3-5 breaths, and return to this practice anytime you're feeling stressed, tired, sad, overwhelmed, or when you have a moment.
The next thing you can do is begin a meditation practice. If you're just starting out, I recommend using the Insight Timer App since it's a guided meditation practice. This app has meditations that last anywhere from 1-60 minutes or more, and are categorized based on what you're trying to achieve through meditation.
Being dehydrated can contribute to a whole slew of health issues. As you're building healthy habits into your life, getting in the habit of having water around you at all times is at the top of my list. You don't have to measure your water intake throughout the day if you don't want to, just get used to carrying a water bottle around at all times, and having water with you throughout your house. I like to have a nice big mason jar on the nightstand next to me when I go to bed, and drink it first thing when I wake up in the morning.
4) Add nutritious foods
Instead of focusing on what you can avoid or eliminate (sugar, carbs, meat, etc. etc.), try a method I learned in health coaching school which is called the "crowd out method". Focus on adding and experimenting with different yummy foods such as veggies, superfoods, and other fun recipes. Play with the way you're cooking the foods, the spices, oils and fats you're adding...have fun with it!
5) Read a book!
One of my favorite books on adding healthy habits into your lifestyle without a focus on weight loss is called "Body Kindness". You'll definitely want to check this one out!
I can imagine this was a lot of information to take in, so I encourage you to take things slowly. If you're used to weight loss being your go-to, or dieting as the norm...this information is likely overwhelming.
Again, my main goal here is to simply plant the seed. You're not "wrong" for the choices you've made, or the things you've said...you were just misinformed. My mission is to offer alternatives, and give you the rest of the information. Why? Because I've been where you are. I've obsessed over the scale, felt frustrated with my attempts, thought there was something wrong with me, and spent a majority of my life so far battling with my weight.
Giving up that fight has been so extremely liberating...and my health has never been better! If you want to learn more ways to live a healthier life and feel better on a daily basis in a long-term, sustainable way....visit laurenkepler.com and join my weekly newsletter, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or be on the lookout for my Self-Care Builder Course, launching September 1, 2017.