Is It Wrong to Want to Lose Weight?

This post has been percolating in my mind for months. Until now I haven't found the words or the discernment to answer this question fairly. But over the last few weeks it seems like every research study I look at, every book I read and every post I see on social media (good, bad and ugly) have been refining my answer to this question: Is it wrong to want to lose weight?

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I find a lot of people asking this question after they learn about the non-diet approach. In an effort to eradicate the message that you HAVE to lose X lbs to be healthier or look a certain way to be accepted, the anti-diet messaging may make people feel guilty for wanting to lose weight.

The short answer: no, it's not wrong to want to lose weight or change your body.

For people who live in larger bodies, the discrimination and rejection they encounter on a daily basis in our thin-obsessed culture makes them wish they could change their body size, of course it does.

The bias that comes from doctors, friends, family, random strangers who stare at them at the grocery store and restaurants --- is not fun. To be honest, I wish they didn't have to deal with those issues either, I wish I could make them go away with a wave of my dietitian wand. So of course it's okay to want to lose weight. 

And I'm going to go out on a limb here and tell you that even if you're in a smaller body or are at a "normal" weight, it's okay to want your body to change, to want a body that looks like it used to look. I understand, and I want you to know It's okay to feel that way, it doesn't mean you are less than or selfish or whatever other lie you might be believing.

But ask yourself a second question: Is it helpful or healthy to focus on losing weight?

From what we know about weight loss diets, they aren't effective long term, and often they result in increased weight GAIN and poor self-image along with increased rates of food preoccupation, binging and other disordered eating behaviors. Add onto that a heaping spoonful of shame and low self-worth.

None of those things sound remotely helpful to me. 

What normally happens when we focus on weight loss is that we become super motivated for a time, tracking every morsel, and workout, weighing ourselves regularly. At first, we might see some weight loss and get some compliments, but eventually we'll either hit a "plateau" or we won't be able to sustain the high stress load of restriction and exercise (and rightly so).  Our bodies will start to fight back.

The scale either won't budge quick enough ,or it will go the other way. Suddenly, the supposedly "healthy" eating we were doing seems pointless. We throw in the towel and go back to the way things were before only with a greater sense of defeat, helplessness and shame. Or even worse, we keep trying over and over , each time with a more restrictive diet, doing more and more harm to our mental and physical health.

Again, no part of that sounds very helpful or healthy.

So we're at a crossroads. What are you supposed to do with your desire to lose weight when youu know pursuing weight loss may not be helpful or healthy for you?

The answer: Learn to accept and then enjoy the body you have through 1.) renewing your mind and 2.) adopting behaviors that promote health, regardless of changes in weight.

Renew your mind with the truth--the truth that diets don't work, the truth that you are worthy and valuable regardless or your size and regardless of what people say about you, the truth that body weight is not a measure of health. 

Fill your mind with things that are true, noble, right, lovely, excellent or praiseworthy. Dig out all the sludge that's accumulated over the years, all the lies that tell you that you need to change your body in order to be happy with yourself, in order to act on your purpose, in order to be loved and give love.

Now, adopt behaviors that will improve your whole health regardless of what your weight does. Yes, eating more fruits and vegetables, cooking at home, walking your dog, drinking more water-- these things will improve your health, not because they promote weight loss, but because they're just good for your body!! Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants and fiber that may help you heal from injuries, decrease the effects of stress, increase your immunity and lower your blood pressure. Cooking at home will improve your financial health, improve your enjoyment and trust in food, increase social bonding, and may increase the nutrient density of your meals. I could go on. The point is healthy behaviors are those that improve your physical, mental and emotional health regardless of your what your weight does.

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This topic is not always easy to talk about. It's emotionally charged, and we have a tendency to hear and read things that weren't said or written. So hear my heart on this. I want you to know that if you want to lose weight that it's okay. But I also want you to know that focusing on weight loss is likely not the answer and may be harmful. I want you to know that you can improve your health regardless of what your weight does. I want you to know that you can have joy, now, just as you are. 

I would love to hear your thoughts. I am always open to respectful debate and questions - if you have them, leave them in the comments below. 

Until next time, happy fueling and stay nourished :)