Merry belated Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! I hope your holidays were fantastic – mine were really awesome, thanks to watching my daughter’s wide-eyed wonder as she took everything in. It made the season almost more magical than it used to be when I was a little tyke myself!
Something about this season, however, isn’t all that magical! It’s everywhere this time of year, especially now that the calendar has flipped over from ’18 to ’19: New Year’s resolutions! I don’t have anything against them in and of themselves. I do have a problem with the most popular resolution that seems to hold priority year after year after year: losing weight. A quick google search confirms that 2019 is no exception – over half of all resolutions this January are “to lose weight”. Again, there isn’t anything nefarious about the physical act of your body shedding pounds – the problem lies in the methods and reasons we tend to use when wanting to lose weight.
I’ve briefly written before about how passionate I’ve become about the topics of food restrictions, over-exercising and under-eating. Even though I never dieted or calorie counted, all growing up I was terrified of gaining weight and did the only thing I knew how to prevent it. I rigidly controlled my food, underfeeding myself consistently. Even two years after waking up to my problem and working to correct it, I’m still dealing with the repercussions of all that restriction. Both my reason (fear of not fitting the current body ideal) and method (food restriction) were wrong, so I suffered years of frustration as a result.
This message of “discipline yourself”, “get yourself under control”, “work up some will power” and “cut back” is being proclaimed everywhere all the time, but perhaps it’s strongest every January. I don’t know your story – if you have resolved this year to lose some weight, go on a diet, exercise more, etc. or if you even “do” resolutions. But in case you’re in the 54% of Americans who have resolved just such a thing this year, I have two simple questions: #1) Are you willing to take a moment to consider the assumptions underlying your desire to lose weight? #2) Will you reconsider the methods you’ve been told are most effective at losing that weight?
Question #1) What are your reasons for wanting to lose weight? From toy dolls to fashion models to popular fitness trainers, leanness is the current ideal for both men and women. The entire Western world is absolutely obsessed with thinness right now, and it literally makes the weight loss industry billions. Instead of going along blindly with this standard however, it seems common sense to stop and think for a moment. Given the fact that beauty standards change over the years, is it empirically true that the lean body type is more beautiful than any other body type? Is it true that weight loss in and of itself leads to health and happiness? Is it true that it is best, let alone possible, for everyone to lose those “last” 5 or 10 or 20 pounds and keep them off in a healthy way? Yes, obesity is a huge problem in America – but could it be possible that the “thin is beautiful” message we’re hearing is part of the problem, not the solution?
Question #2) Does increasing exercise and decreasing food intake actually help you lose weight in the long run? Despite the fact that books, social media, advertisements, magazines, movies, tv shows and even friends and family constantly shout the basic message, “eat less and exercise more to lose weight”, something doesn’t seem to be working. If it really is that simple, then why do the overwhelming majority of diets fail? Why has childhood obesity tripled in the last forty years since the start of the “War on Obesity”? Why do we keep “falling off the wagon”, only to jump back on, and then fall off again in an endless cycle? Dieting and restricting food intake to lose weight may sound oh-so-simple and promise happiness, freedom and health, but can we be honest with ourselves and take a moment to realize: it never works. It never lasts.
I’m not attacking anyone’s food choices, exercise habits or lifestyle. I don’t know your history or circumstances, or your reasons for your resolutions (if any). I just think that given the often problematic reasons for which Americans (especially women) are pressured to lose weight, and the glaring failure of restrictive diets to meet and maintain those weight loss goals, it simply bears taking a moment to really think about why we’re doing this. Of course there are legitimate reasons and methods for losing weight in a healthy way – but if either the reason or the method is unhealthy, we’re setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment down the road.
If you’re suspicious that your reasons or methods for losing weight may not be all that valid or healthy, here are some excellent resources to look into. Learning more about human physiology, appetite signals, inflammation, body fat and food could help you make informed decisions when it comes to how you view your body and your food:
I just finished reading this book for the second time and WOW is it good!! Well worth buying and reading at least a few times: Confessions of a Food Catholic by Doug Wilson
Margaret Barry, a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and T-Tapp trainer (and my awesome friend and sister-in-law!), has fantastic info on her website. Some of my favorite posts are:
Kayla Kotecki (author of Damn the Diets) is a former bikini model who now helps women on the road to recovery after restrictive dieting. Her videos are packed with truth and valuable information. Here are two of my favorites:
Stefani Ruper is one of the Well Fed Women podcast hosts, and her blog is full of good information about food and weight loss. Some great blog posts to get started on are:
It’s worth mentioning again how helpful the book, Coconuts and Kettlebells by Noelle Tarr and Stefani Ruper, is! Read my blog post review of this book here.
Have a fantastic 2019 everyone!