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Of Course It’s OK that You Want to Lose Weight

Of Course It’s OK that You Want to Lose Weight

'Health At Every Size® is not anti-weight loss, it is anti-pursuit of weight loss.' —@bodypositivephd Click To Tweet

Earlier this week I attended a webinar hosted by the Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) titled “When Your Client Says, ‘But I Need to Lose Weight!’” which still remains the #1 reason people see dietitians, including dietitians who have proclaimed for years and years that they use a weight-neutral, body positive, Health At Every Size® approach. (I think the word “diet” in dietitian throws people off.)

One of the key takeaways for me from this webinar was that I was making a common mistake that many healthcare practitioners make when they first adopt this philosophy.

I’m Sorry.

I’ve been so pumped about discovering my truth and uplifted by all the support I have received that I blissfully ignored that weight stigma and the thin ideal are still the dominant voices. I thought that everyone would see what I saw when it comes to how harmful dieting and pursuing weight loss can be.

I was wrong.

Instead, I made people feel like I was ignoring their very real and very valid desire to lose weight. I made people feel like I was turning them away, that I was no longer going to help them. I made people feel dismissed, abandoned, unheard, confused and guilty.

And for that, I deeply and sincerely apologize.

There’s Nothing Wrong with Wanting to Lose Weight

It’s completely normal to want to lose weight. In fact, about half of us do. I’m sure even more of us want to change something about our body, with or without a change in the number on the scale.

The reality is, this desire doesn’t just come about in a vacuum. People don’t just decide that they want to be a certain weight, or look a certain way, at random.

My friend and colleague Casey of Worthy and Well said it best in a recent vlog:

“You want something deeper. You really want what you think weight loss will bring to your life.”

Perhaps it’s preventing or managing an illness. Returning to a weight that you associate with being happier, more energetic. Perhaps you want happiness, confidence, love, or just to not feel like people are staring at you wherever you go.

Tell Me More…

I accidentally made this space feel like it’s about “trying to lose weight vs. not trying to lose weight”, when in fact, we share the same goal: improving your health and wellness.

One of the phrases that drives my practice is, “Curiosity, not judgment.” I made you feel like I was judging you for wanting to lose weight, when I should’ve sat back and gotten curious—what is really motivating that desire? What is your story?

What is really motivating your desire to lose #weight? #curiositynotjudgment Click To Tweet

Although I disagree that weight loss can bring you love, happiness, energy, etc. (and even if it did, the baggage that comes with trying to lose weight is not worth it), I would be happy to support you in achieving your desires in other ways.

While you may think all dietitians do is tell you what to eat, if your concerns have anything to do with your relationship with food and eating, it’s our job to help you. Sometimes it is about changing what, how much, when or how you eat. Sometimes it is about changing the way you think about food, eating, nutrition, health and your body. It can even be about connecting you with other resources or professionals, or simply creating a safe space for you to talk.

Either way, I am here for you.

So, you want to lose weight and you’re curious about an alternative approach to being well? Let’s talk.

10 Comments

  • Valerija on Jul 24, 2017 Reply

    Although I disagree that weight loss can bring you love, happiness, energy, etc. (and even if it did, the baggage that comes with trying to lose weight is not worth it), I would be happy to support you in achieving your desires in other ways.

    Well, this is wrong on so many obvious levels. I lost weight. A lot. I did it by changing what and how much I ate, and I excercised regulary. I actually feel so much better, I have more self confidence, my sex life gotten better, I wear what I want and feel great, and yeah I am happier!! Much happier, and of course I have more energy as a result of better food and exercise. I also found a boyfriend, before I was ashamed, miserable and not even willing to date as a result of my bad inner feelings resulting from being over weight.
    So I must ask, what are you talking about?

    Also WHAT BAGGAGE? What baggage comes with losing weight? I didn’t starve, word diet doesn’t mean food deprivation for gods sake!
    I honestly don’t understand a word you wrote in this post of yours. So wrong on so many levels.

    • Vincci Tsui on Jul 24, 2017 Reply

      Hi Valerija,

      Thanks so much for your comment, and for sharing your experience. It sounds like the changes that you made to your lifestyle brought on lots of changes for you, including weight loss.

      In my clinical experience, and in the literature, weight loss isn’t so easy – many people change what and how much they eat and/or exercise regularly without a change in weight, and some even gain weight. Others lose weight in the beginning, but because of various factors outside of their control, they regain some or all of their weight. I have met so many people who are stuck losing and gaining the same amount of weight over and over. Many people find that they are less happy, and that their self confidence tanks because they feel like they’re “doing everything” and still not losing weight. They’re hinging their confidence and happiness on something that we as humans actually have very little control over.

      I have also seen people who have lost a lot of weight through bariatric surgery who also aren’t happy, because the image that they had of what their lives would be like after losing weight is not the same as reality, and/or because their weight had become such a huge part of their identity that they feel uncomfortable in their smaller body. For these people, losing weight did not get at the root causes of some of their mood and mental health issues.

      So, what I mean by “baggage” is what I touched on above – while for you “diet doesn’t mean food deprivation”, for many people trying to lose weight, it does mean being obsessed with food and/or exercise in some way, which can increase a person’s risk of developing an eating disorder. Also, focusing on weight often doesn’t get at the root of a person’s health issues, both physically and mentally.

      The good news is, it’s possible to find love, happiness and increased energy without weight loss. You even mentioned in your comment that you had “more energy as a result of better food and exercise”. Often, people wrongly attribute these positive changes that they have in their life to the weight loss, when there are other changes that they are making too that could be contributing to the better energy, and it just so happens that they are losing weight at the same time.

      Thanks again for your comment, and I hope this creates more understanding.

  • Michelle Jaelin on Feb 23, 2017 Reply

    Hi Vincci,
    I was introduced to HAES before my clinical internship. While completing it, I struggled. I struggled between back and forth conflicting ideas of weight, health and disease. Now in private practice, I still make mistakes and am constantly aware my thin privilege when I work with clients who tell me their stories of struggle with weight bias and health.

    What I’m saying is that it is normal to mess up, even if you have been “haes-d” a long time ago. Know that most (if not all) understand that your intentions are good 🙂

    • Vincci Tsui on Feb 23, 2017 Reply

      Thanks, Michelle! This is definitely a journey.

  • Jane Player on Feb 23, 2017 Reply

    Vincci, this strikes me as a very heartfelt blog and I hope it helps those who may have felt judged. As for me, I did not feel judged when you made your announcements about what you now think about weight loss.I have been striving for some time to not feel badly about my weight. It’s enough already–I’m a senior now! I’m trying to concentrate on health and nutrition. Saying that, however, I know that I still would like to lose weight. But I know that if I do it will be at a very slow pace and will not be my primary objective. It will be a side effect of treating myself and my body well and successfully managing my health conditions–which is the most important objective. While the thin ideal is still very dominant and we fat people are still treated very badly by far too many, I am encouraged because so much is changing. Scientific research is revealing much more about why dieting doesn’t work. There are obesity physicians like Dr. Sharma and Dr. Freedhoff who are doing great work within their practices, their profession, and in the media. There a dietitians like you who are elevating your profession and are so accessible to people like me through social media. And there are many young body positive activists working hard at changing public perceptions. I believe we will get there, maybe not in my lifetime, but we will get there. Thank you for all you do.

    • Vincci Tsui on Feb 23, 2017 Reply

      Thank you for your comment, Jane! I really appreciate your support.

  • Kristie on Feb 23, 2017 Reply

    I appreciate this. While I didn’t feel alienated, per se, I did feel less like I could contribute in this space while having very real weight concerns and it’s nice to know that, in fact, I can!

    My desire to lose weight is driven by a few factors. To describe my family history of heart disease as abysmal would be generous. So that’s a big factor! I also have a rare connective tissue disorder (Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, for the curious) that makes my joints unbelievably unstable. Carrying extra weight isn’t helping that, and the EDS also affects my heart valves. There’s a whole big story with the EDS and heart problems but I’ll leave that where it is for now.

    Third is that my medical team does make it difficult to get treatment and supports for my EDS while I’m overweight. And while I’m certainly not denying that shouldn’t happen at all, ever, sometimes you have to play the game and show you’re making an honest effort to get internists and general practitioners on your side.

    However, having said that, my desire to join in on diet culture is nil. I’m not interested in having the entirety of my life revolve around my weight and attempting to lose that weight. I’ve seen that toxicity ruin too many lives around me. So I’m trying to find that balance, which can be difficult but I try to remember a saying I heard a few years ago. “You are not fat. You *have* fat. You also have fingernails, but you are not fingernails.”

    • Vincci Tsui on Feb 23, 2017 Reply

      Thank you for your comment, Kristie, and I’m so grateful to hear that my post has helped you feel welcome again. I love that quote that you shared at the end – our bodies shouldn’t define us.

  • Dara on Feb 23, 2017 Reply

    I love this post! I also hate that the word “diet” is the core of our title as registered dietitians. I often struggle with talking to people about their day to day eating as I really try to avoid using words like “healthy diet.” I wish we were called something else like “food-titians.” well maybe not that exactly, but you get my drift! Thanks for sharing this!

    • Vincci Tsui on Feb 23, 2017 Reply

      Thank you, Dara! I totally agree, it’s so interesting to notice how words can make such a big impact.

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