Does weight loss equal health?
I hardly know where to begin with this topic, it's enormous and it can get convoluted and circular pretty quickly. Perhaps, it's better to frame this subject as an ongoing conversation, taking into account the wide variety of perspectives and experiences, not to mention social pressure.
It breaks my heart to see well-meaning people and professionals using weight loss (or gain) as a gauge for health. It simply does not compute. You can have health at all stages of weight; under, average or over. Conversely, you can have disease or markers of disease at any of these same stages. This is fact.
If you've been around a bit, you know I'm a fan of a book that addresses this fact, Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon PhD. And while she got a lot of things right in this book, Ms. Bacon herself, recognized some shortcomings and the need for different and more perspective. Thus she followed up with a second book on the subject, Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, or Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight, with Lucy Aphramor.
It's a tough subject and many brilliant minds are struggling to get the message right. Dr. Jon Robison captured the state of weight loss programs perfectly in his LinkedIn article Struggling? Dr. Jon suggests the disclaimer below be attached to any weight loss program and that anything less is unethical. I tend to agree.
"Research shows that the vast majority of people who participate in weight loss programs will eventually gain their weight back after the program ends. Many will also gain back more than they lose. The weight cycling that occurs with repeated participation in weight loss programs may have negative effects on their health"
So, where does that leave us with the subject of weight loss vs health?
Think about weight loss and health as separate but related concepts. They have some things in common, but do not necessarily go hand in hand. For example, exercise can improve your health on many levels and it can aid in weight loss. In the gym, many people give up on exercise because they don't see the scale moving, yet they are likely receiving far more benefit in their overall health. Exercise is documented to improve cardiovascular, muscular, immune system, brain health, mood and mental clarity and more. Sad, because they probably showed up in the gym when their doctor suggested they lose weight to improve their health. They WERE improving their health, just using the wrong gauge and didn't even know it.
I coach people to understand what it is they are after and to find the appropriate tools to measure their progress. If the focus is weight loss, understand why that is important to you. Build in realistic expectations and learn a path that will stay with you for a lifetime.
All of us can focus on health by getting consistent appropriate exercise, healthy foods, building good relationships and minimizing stress. Do these things with no attachment to weight and you will benefit greatly.
I am kicking off a healthy eating and exercise 6-week program on October 14 that will reset your metabolism and then reintroduce real foods and real life, teaching participants tools for healthful eating and weight management for a lifetime. I am excited to be working with thousands of others on this journey, with a 6-week focused effort and a lifetime of support and encouragement.
What are your thoughts? What are your tips for staying healthy?