Can Losing Weight Be Done In A Healthy Way?
If you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen a post I put up maybe a month or so ago that was two people shouting at each other with a megaphone. Under one person I put the words “anti-diet” and under the other I put “weight loss” with the title “when we put our own beliefs above our clients health, preferences and goals, nobody wins.”
Today I wanted to expand upon this idea and talk about weight loss, the diet industry and ultimately how you can find clarity for yourself amongst it all.
As a health coach and exercise physiologist I always try to remove my own personal bias, because at the end of the day nutrition, health, and exercise is about the science, not my own personal opinion. It’s my job to be neutral in these discussions with clients and help them find clarity around weight loss, body size (if those topics come up), and what health really means.
Now before we dive into this topic I want to remind you of a few things:
Know that you are more than just a body, and I believe your worth as a human being is so much more than a number on the scale.
It’s always my mission to help everyone I work with develop a permanent positive relationship with food, movement and themselves, but this looks different for everyone.
I believe your value in this world is not the foods you eat, or how much your exercise, but I also understand you feel the pressures to look a certain way.
I care deeply about my community, and now, more than ever it’s confusing to know what’s “right” when it comes to your health. Especially with things like:
Harmful diet fads that have co-opted cherry picked pieces of research and convinced people to cut out food groups or follow lots of restrictive rules.
The terms intuitive eating used strategically for weight loss, by strict use of the hunger and fullness principles – which as an intuitive eating counsellor, I can tell you is the exact opposite of what this process is about.
Shaming people in larger bodies, smaller bodies, and everything in between bodies.
We’re now being told that strong is fine, but skinny is not. That any pursuit of anything mildly aesthetic is narcissistic and superficial and that we need to be deeply accepting of our bodies just as they are while trying to wade through this world of confusing and often conflicting messages.
So, I see you, and I feel for you. How confusing this must be to sit with all this information and find clarity. Find your path. Find what’s right for you. But today we’re going to do exactly that. And more specifically discuss if weight loss will be helpful or harmful in your current health journey by addressing your health history, goals, your ‘why’ factor and the method.
Your Health History
When I work with anyone who’s had a history of disordered eating or an eating disorder, and the topic of weight loss comes up it’s always an interesting one. I say interesting because this topic is NEVER off limits. However, for anyone with a history of disordered eating engaging in dieting behaviour is dangerous territory and one that I don’t usually advocate for unless it’s on the basis of managing a health condition.
And if this is the case, you bet we’re going to be working on reducing stress, increasing diet quality, general daily activity, and improving sleep, body image, self-care and mindset to improve health WELL before we address weight loss.
Other factors to consider when we’re talking through health history is hormonal conditions, musculoskeletal problems, and any chronic conditions that the client feels is relevant. This way I can make an assessment as to whether weight is even a factor that NEEDS to be considered IF the client brings it up as one of their goals.
Your Goals & The ‘Why’ Factor
If weight loss comes up as a goal – my first question is always “ok can you tell me a little bit more about that” because I want to get to what’s underneath. I want to understand your why. A lot of the time when someone says “I want to lose weight” what they end up telling me is things like:
The truth is you can have ALL of the above things without losing weight. You can also lose weight and still feel like you haven’t achieved those things.
Integrating a holistic approach that tackles body image, self-esteem, and self-care just as much as it addresses physical activity and nutrition is so important. Even more important is creating a goal and ‘why’ factor that are deeper and more meaningful than a number on the scale.
Weight loss of any kind is created through a calorie deficit. The means by which you achieve that target is merely THE METHOD. I think a lot of diet backlash is due to the fact that there are so many fads and a lot of them are unsustainable. It’s definitely NOT what I’m about because I want people to be building habits NOW that they can maintain for life.
So there’s no keto, no intermittent fasting, and no weird supplements. Literally nothing beyond the foods that you can find in a greengrocer, or supermarket. Nothing is off limits.
I simply bring it right back to basics. Are your meals balanced? Are you getting enough protein, vegetables, fruits, whole grains? Are you making time to move your body each day in ways you enjoy?
Where To Start
Whether your goal is weight loss, weight gain, or just improving your health finding clarity by understanding your goals and your ‘why’ is essential. And throughout this process it’s also incredibly important to have someone to help you decide if your goals make sense in the context of your physical and mental health, assess if the method is appropriate and constantly check-in on your progress and overall wellbeing frequently to make sure it’s a positive experience.