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Why It’s So Hard (And So Crucial) to Let Go of the Weight Loss Dream

Why It’s So Hard (And So Crucial) to Let Go of the Weight Loss Dream

Let me start by saying that there is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight. There is a $60 billion industry that feeds off of (and into) our insecurities with our body and our weight, so we’re constantly bombarded with these marketing messages. We also live in a culture that conflates weight and health, and places morality on body size. No wonder it feels like trying to lose weight is the “right” thing to do!

However, to truly heal our relationship with food and our bodies, letting go of the desire to lose weight is crucial. In many cases, our desire to lose weight or change our bodies is what got us here in the first place – obsessing over calories, points and/or macros, feeling guilt and shame whenever we eat a “bad” food, letting the scale dictate our mood, weight cycling, etc. This same desire is also what’s going to keep us from moving forward and making progress.

Why It’s So Hard to Let Go of the Weight Loss Dream

To put it bluntly, the world is not a fat-friendly place. When you live in a larger body, things that smaller people take for granted, like shopping for clothes, sitting in chairs, fitting in spaces, etc. can be difficult, not to mention the unsolicited stares, jeers and “advice” that come from strangers daily.

Moreover, places that are often considered “safe spaces” don’t always feel safe for people in larger bodies. It’s not just internet trolls; people have reported experiencing weight bias from teachers, employers, and even healthcare professionals.

On the flip side, weight loss is celebrated, no matter the cause. Heck, Kim Kardashian tweeted about how great it was to lose weight after she got the flu! We’re constantly fed the message that if we’re not losing weight, or at least trying to, then we’re not trying hard enough. We’re “letting ourselves go”; we’re “killing ourselves”.

While it’s true that higher body weights are correlated with increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and other health concerns, and that weight loss is correlated with improved health markers, often these studies ignore other factors, like socioeconomic status, eating habits, physical activity, etc. that affect both weight and health.

If we were really concerned about health, why do we keep using weight as a marker of success when we know that health and weight are not directly correlated? Why do we poo-poo other measures as being “too subjective”? Why do health professionals (and society at large) keep recommending weight loss when we know that it’s statistically improbable and often leads to worse health outcomes?

Given that weight bias is so common, is it possible that most of our current body of research is done through a weight biased lens and we’re not getting the full picture?

This quote from one of my clients says it all: “I get the idea of not having to lose weight, but sometimes you just want to work with the system.”

Why It’s Crucial to Let Go of the Weight Loss Dream

So, yeah. It’s not easy to let go of the idea of weight loss, and most people never do.

But to truly make peace with food and with your body, you have to at least put the idea on the back burner.

When we conflate health and weight, we assume that everything we do that improves health results in weight loss, and that’s simply not the case. Physical activity has a myriad of benefits; weight loss isn’t one of them. Eating more vegetables is good for you, but it won’t result in weight loss if you don’t create a calorie deficit. Often what happens in these situations is that people say that their changes “didn’t work”, when really, they weren’t looking for the right results. And when things “don’t work”, people quit. The benefits of that? Zero.

More importantly, the rigid food rules, negative self-talk and constant guilt/shame that come with a focus on weight get in the way of true healing. When you’re restricting your intake and relying on a “calorie goal” to tell you how much to eat, you lose touch of your body’s natural hunger and satiety cues. When you’re constantly obsessing over what’s in your food, you never get to truly enjoy it.

Take a breath.

I invite you to just imagine for a moment what it would be like if you didn’t worry about your weight. How does it feel to even have that thought? Is it exciting? Freeing? Terrifying? What would be different about your life? What and how would you eat? Move? Live? What does health look like when you take weight out of the equation? 

It’s OK if you don’t have an answer right now. If you’ve been trying to manage your weight for most of your life, it makes sense that you haven’t spent a lot of energy thinking about any alternatives. But just imagine the possibilities of what life would be like, if you let go of your weight loss dream, and finally let your body be.

What does health look like for you when you take weight out of the equation? Please share your insights in the comments below!

4 Comments

  • Gilda on Jun 28, 2017 Reply

    I gave up dieting a few years ago when it became clear that it ultimately led to weight gain. Now I am practicing — in the truest sense of the word — intuitive eating. Slowly I am learning my body’s hunger and satiety cues, and also how to listen to what it really wants. After 50 years of a disordered relationship with food, I am finally healing.

    • Vincci Tsui on Jun 28, 2017 Reply

      That is beautiful, Gilda! It’s never too late to heal your relationship with food. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Bill Fabrey on Jun 28, 2017 Reply

    A beautiful, caring, powerful essay. Thank you!

    • Vincci Tsui on Jun 28, 2017 Reply

      Thanks, Bill!

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