Did you make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight? Dana Sturtevant, MS, RD, LD and Hilary Kinavey, MS, LPC are not fans of that resolution. The Educators and Activists stopped by to tell us why we need to stop focusing on weight and shared what we should be doing instead.
Some reasons not to focus on weight in the new year:
1.The weight loss industry is a failed paradigm. The most consistent effect of weight loss at two years is weight gain (Mann et al, 2007). It won’t be different this time, and this is not your fault. Dieting follows a predictable cycle of initial enthusiasm and excitement (the honeymoon phase), followed by hunger, cravings, worry and fear, and backlash eating (falling off the program). The $60 billion industry depends on you blaming yourself when their “plan” fails so you’ll come back for more. 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February, according to U.S. News and World Report (2018).
2.Our bodies have strong negative physiological and psychological responses to dieting — including metabolic changes, body distrust, disconnection from hunger and satiety signals, and increased body shame and self-loathing. These responses impact your health and well-being.
3.Watching your calories, restricting food, and exercising to “make up for eating” should not be equated with the pursuit of health. These hyper-vigilant behaviors are commonly associated with eating disorders and disordered eating. Weight loss does not necessarily increase health gain. Many health concerns can be improved without a change in BMI. Cosmetic fitness is not the same as metabolic fitness.
What to do instead?
There’s nothing magical about this time of year. It’s really no different than any other time of year. Most of the time sustainable change happens as a result of incremental behavior changes that occur consistently over a long period of time.
Beware of diets in disguise. The weight loss industry knows that the word diet has become a 4 letter word, so they’ve found all kinds of ways to repackage their offerings as “lifestyle” interventions while continuing to collude with the dieting mind. Focus on weight-neutral self care: self care for the sake of self care.
If you have a long history of dieting, disordered eating, and weight cycling, shift your focus to HEALING your relationship with food and body. Behavior change will always be temporary when it is rooted in (body) shame.
Rediscover, embody and allow for pleasure. Many people give up pleasure “in the name of health”. When the things we are doing to take care of ourselves connect us to pleasure and joy, they are much more sustainable. And the body benefits most from what we do consistently and predictably. What way of caring for yourself is sustainable?
Focus on C work. Avoid approaching things with rigidity and perfectionism (it’s probably a sign you are dieting). We tell folks some of the time but not all of the time.
Root self-care practices in weight-neutrality and trust your body to sort out the weight. We have less control over our bodies than we’ve been taught to believe. Weight may change as a side effect of self-care, but when we center weight, we show up with a dieting mind, pursue change with rigidity and perfectionism, and any changes made (and weight lost) are not sustainable.