Is It Time to Shift Your Focus From Weight-Loss To Health-Gain?

If you could free yourself from the scale and the nagging obsession of always wanting to lose the last ten pounds, you might be healthier and happier than you ever thought possible.

I just finished reading an interesting op-ed piece No Evidence Weight Loss Improves Health.  The article is an interview with Linda Bacon, nutrition professor and researcher, and author of the book Health At Every Size who is tired of the pressure society puts on people to lose weight.

Bacon’s goal is to see an end to the war obesity which she believes has led to the discrimination of overweight people, a rampant preoccupation with food, disordered eating habits and billions of wasted dollars. She wants people to switch the focus from weight to health and is leading a movement by the same name as her book, Health At Every Size.

Bacon believes that as a society we have been led to believe that losing weight automatically improves health, but she says there is no evidence that weight loss prolongs life.  She says that “lifestyle changes – like eating more nutritious foods and getting regular physical activity – is the key to better health.  In just about every weight loss trial, participants make lifestyle changes to achieve the weight loss, like changing their diet or exercise patterns.  These changes alone could account for improved health results, whether or not weight was lost.”

Living healthy is less about the number on the scale and more about making good choices everyday.

Living healthy is less about the number on the scale and more about making good choices everyday.

In the interview, she voiced her real concern which is with the eating disorders that have developed out of this obsession we have with weight loss.  She says that research clearly demonstrates that excessive fear of weight gain can lead directly to eating disorders.  Plus, the stress that an obsession with trying to lose weight produces contributes to hypertension and depression and takes a toll on overall health and happiness.

What Would Implementing A  Health Gain Strategy Look Like?

In a letter Linda writes to people who are considering their next diet she says:

It’s way too easy to believe that a thin body will right everything wrong in your world. That your life will automatically improve once you’re thin enough to take the steps you feel your weight prevents you from taking today. But it won’t. The reality is that this fantasy of weight loss is what’s stopping you from achieving your dreams—not your weight itself. The pursuit of weight loss rarely produces the thin, happy life many people dream of.

 I’m not asking you to give up on your dreams. What I am suggesting is that you move on. When you stop trying to control your weight, you allow your body to do the job for you—naturally and much more effectively. If you stop fighting yourself, achieving and maintaining a weight that is healthy for your body becomes effortless.

If you read the full op-ed piece and are convinced that switching from a weight loss strategy to a health based one is something you want to do, what would that look like?  What changes would you make?  How hard would it be?

Moving from a weight loss to a health gain strategy means you’ll have to put the scale in the dumpster, erase the MyFitnessPal app from your phone, and not worry about how many calories you burned in Zumba class.  Food choices will no longer be based on how many calories they have in them, but on whether or not they are good for you and have nutrients that your body can use.  You’ll want to only eat foods that make you feel healthy and strong.

Physical activity goals will be based on maintaining cardiovascular health, disease prevention, and bone density, and you’ll seek to find new ways of feeling happy and develop habits that help you do just that.  Bacon says you’ll need to stop worrying about the numbers on the scale and focus on what makes you feel good in the body you have right now.

It certainly sounds more liberating than Dr. Oz’s 30 Day Cleanse, Body By Vi’s two shakes and a heat- and-eat meal a day routine, or meticulously tracking Weight Watcher points.  But in a society where we are inundated with images of air brushed swim suit models, celebrity endorsements of weight loss products, and Biggest Loser competitions, deciding that how much we weigh doesn’t matter, won’t be easy.  It will require a 360 degree paradigm shift and significant behavior change.

Are you ready to forget about your weight and focus solely on your health?  Learn more about Linda Bacon and her Health at Every Size movement at http://www.lindabacon.org.

You might also like 15 Ways To Improve Your Health Without Losing A Pound.

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