As someone whose life used to literally revolve around weight loss (both personally and professionally), how weird is that? Stay with me while I explain why I've done a complete 180 on the subject of weight loss.
We were talking a lot about weight loss in one of the CE group chats last night.
Specifically that non-stop obsessed feeling that we ALWAYS NEED to be working on it.
Why? Why do we spend SO much time obsessed with feeling like we need to lose weight?
Perhaps it's because we feel better when we lose weight.
Well, in large part because we're celebrated when we lose weight, right?
We feel special.
We often feel like a better person because we're literally treated better.
Everywhere we go, people tell us how awesome we are, they tell us how amazing we look, they ask us how we did it. We get ALL the attention and acceptance we didn't when were heavier ...and then some.
It's like we found the holy grail or something. Or we see other people being celebrated in those ways for their weight loss and we want what they have. We want to feel the praise, attention, acceptance and belonging they're getting.
But... if they're awesome and look amazing because of losing weight, what kind of message does that send about what we thought about them BEFORE they lost weight? I mean, all this time, have we been celebrating weight loss with insults thinly veiled as compliments?
The sad thing is, we're SO conditioned to weight loss being the holy grail of success and happiness in life that it's REALLY hard to stop doing it. Whenever someone loses weight the "you look soooo amazing" comments just blurt right out SO friggen automatically that the words come out before you even realize you said it. And when you don't say it, you almost feel guilty. You feel like you're supposed to be acknowledging how awesome and amazing they are for losing weight.
And the biggest problem with all of that is if our happiness or the way we feel in our bodies, or about ourselves is conditional upon anything outside ourselves (like weight), we're always at risk of losing that feeling.
And we almost always do.
Because how's the lifetime of being obsessed with weight loss working for us? Is it making our population as a whole get, and stay, skinny and happy? What's almost always the next thing that happens whenever someone loses weight?
They gain it back. Often plus even more. And then feel even worse about themselves.
And what kinds of choices do you suppose we make for ourselves when we feel awful about ourselves? Not ones that are in our best interests, that's for sure.
The Real Diet Story 95-98% of people who lose weight on a diet will regain it all within one year and up to 2/3's of them will weight 11lbs more than when they even started within 5 years.
A 35lb weight loss that gets celebrated by everyone around us becomes a 45lb weight regain that makes us feel ashamed. We end up afraid of what the people who were just celebrating us for being soooo successful and losing weight will think of us when they see how badly we've "failed" by putting it back on. And the never-ending obsession continues as we desperately chase getting those feelings back losing the weight again.
Let that sink in... up to 2/3's of people who you're congratulating for how amazing they look when they lose weight, will regain all the weight PLUS more.
And then ask yourself again, how might they be feeling about themselves if/when they're one of those 2/3's who regain even more.
Perhaps you're one of those people who had everyone praising them for weight loss, only to gain it all back. How did it make you feel?
After almost a decade of hearing women talk about the effects of this cycle on their mental (and physical) health, I'm tapping out.
I want no part of it anymore.
I refuse to accept weight loss as something we need to be striving for and celebrating. And I refuse to accept weight gain as a failure that we have to waste our lives desperately trying to "fix".
By the tens of of thousands, perhaps even millions, women are starting this cycle in their teens and getting to their 70's before realizing they spent their entire lives at war with their bodies and food because of it.
Chasing happiness and self-acceptance through our scales is a game that no one ever wins. The HAES movement and body positive movements tell us that no one can ever lose weight and keep it off anyway so we shouldn't even bother trying.
The diet industry tells us that weight is killing us and we're worthless without their magic fixes.
I don't believe either is true - I believe we simply have to stop focusing on or caring about weight and instead:
work on changing the relationships we have with ourselves that tell us we're only worth something if our bodies are the right size (if we'd all stop celebrating weight loss, this would be a WHOLE lot easier for people)
work on changing the relationship we have with food so we change WHY we're eating the way we're eating and start wanting to make choices that make us feel good, rather than self-destructive ones. This whole guilt, restrict and willpower our way to "health" thing that we've been is crap. It never works.
Weight needs to be a non-issue because it'll work itself out when we connect with what's best for our own bodies and stop eating in the ways that caused it to go on in the first place.
And we stop judging and hating ourselves for not being perfect when we learn that our worth is not defined by our size.
The best part of all that is that once we learn those things -- they can't ever be taken way.
To hell with the diet culture that celebrates weight loss and makes it something we feel like we need to waste our lives striving for - particularly since it's so rare for anyone to actually achieve and maintain.
But the HAES movement has some things wrong too, in my opinion. We CAN lose weight and keep it off -- the reason it's been failing for so many is because the system we've grown up on is so fundamentally broken. The obsession with weight loss, is the very thing that's making it fail.
We're taught to be obsessed with weight loss, obsessed with what our bodies look like and weigh, and obsessed with what we're putting in our mouths - what we "should be" and "shouldn't be" eating. And we're taught that willpower, restriction, suffering, deprivation, guilt and shame are the keys -- but the opposite is true.
It. Doesn't. Work.
It has never worked.
If it did we would have all gotten skinny and happy from Weight Watchers in the 50's when they started. What we got was a short term "fix" that makes us feel good in those few weeks and months after reaching a "weight loss goal" because we get celebrated by everyone around us -- but it ultimately just creates a lifetime of guilt, shame, (valid) fear over regaining, and disordered eating patterns - or full blown eating disorders.
Why Is It Not Working? Well, Why Did You Gain Weight in the First Place?
We gain weight because we're eating more calories than we're burning. It's that simple. And that's the problem that diet and exercise has been attempting to solve.
But that's exactly why it's failing. We're obsessed with the wrong thing. We're obsessed with the symptom -- the weight gain.
The reality is, while "eat less, move more" may technically be true, it's a naive and way too simplistic because the reasons we eat the things we eat, in the ways we eat them, in the quantities we do, are incredibly complex. Often, we're not even consciously aware of them -- choices are made completely on auto-pilot.
When we release the obsession over food and the constant desperation to lose weight, first of all those thoughts of, "I'll just eat all this now because I can't have it anymore when I get back on track" that contribute to weight GAIN and are ever present when we spend years on the diet roller coaster, are simply gone. AND, then we have the ability to start learning WHY we're eating self-destructively (if we are) in the first place, and how to change it. When we change the WHY behind why we're eating the way we're eating, the weight eventually just sorts itself out.
I mean, think about all the time and energy you've been spending thinking about and "working on" weight loss. How is working for you? Can you even imagine a life without having to waste that energy on something so completely ineffective? So no, I'm not celebrating weight loss anymore (or at least I'm trying not to, it's a hard habit to break, especially when you know people expect it). It's definitely not something I even care or think about anymore and getting to that place has been one of the biggest blessings of life.
Imagine If we all stopped judging weight - if we stopped celebrating weight loss and condemning weight gain - if we stopped caring about weight at all. Imagine if instead we just focused on love, compassion, acceptance, healing our wounds, befriending ourselves and our bodies, and repairing our relationship with food so we didn't always have to use it fill all the extra empty spaces outside of physical hunger. Imagine if we stopped obsessing over weight and size and just focused on being happy, liking ourselves and treating our bodies with care so they felt good to live in?
Isn't that all that should really matter anyway?
If this resonates with you and you need help getting to this place -- this place of just being able to live in your body in a way that makes you happy and gives you peace without that constant "I need to lose weight" nagging at you all the time, this place of just eating in a way that makes your body feel good, this place of loving and accepting yourself without conditions - I created The Cognitive Eating Academy to help and another round starts again soon. For more information on Cognitive Eating, click here.