"Don't Lose Weight" December!

Really?  Don’t lose weight? 

Yes, really…for the majority of people.  New years eve is right around the corner, and with it comes new year’s resolutions of weight loss.  Acquaintances have suggested that HealthOut should mirror other fitness businesses by offering weight loss services and putting on weight loss challenges to bring in new business, but I can proudly say that HealthOut will not be doing any of this.  HealthOut will not sit idly and watch you get fat in December, only to pounce on you in January and offer you some long term fitness contract that you can’t get out of.  So, Don’t Lose Weight, is our cheeky way of saying “Stop That!’ to the fitness industry. 

Now back to the question – “Really, Don’t Lose Weight?” Here are some great reasons that most people should not be focusing on losing weight in the new-year.

1.    Numbers on a scale do not mean better health or quality of life.

a.     Just because you were happiest when you were 18 years old and you weighted 120 lbs at that time, does not mean your ideal weight is 120lbs.  Forget the idea of an ideal weight (even though I know you won’t), it is an outdated system invented by a bunch of insurance actuaries that did not understand the intricacies of weight and health.

2.    Most people don’t have good reasons to lose weight and are not adequately motivated.

a.     What’s a good reason for weight loss then?  The answer is: reasons that are less likely to change over time. For instance medical reasons are a good example because they don’t change day to day like your self-esteem or how you feel about your body. 

b.     Assessing whether someone is a healthy weight requires an holistic view of an individual and their entire health history.  Even if someone is determined to be at an unhealthy weight, time is usually on their side and a quick approach to weight loss is often not needed. 

3.     Most people don’t have a plan, and if they do, it usually isn’t long term.

a.     Obesity is a chronic, progressive disease for which there is no cure.  Its natural history is to get worse unless it is actively managed long term, but most weight loss programs are short term.   Any of the benefits of short term weight loss are almost definitely outweighed by the permanent slowing of an individuals metabolism, the stress of dieting, and the stress of weight regain to the body.  Not to mention the frustration and disappointment that can often hamper efforts in areas that might actually make a positive long term difference

4.     Weight loss rarely treats the cause of weight gain.

a.     The causes of obesity can be elusive, extremely diverse, multiple, and difficult to treat.  All of this takes time and effort to unearth and treat, and is rarely dealt with in a short-term weight loss program. 

If focusing on weight loss is not helpful for most people, what is helpful?   There is no simple answer to this, and I get so upset whenever I see some so called expert like John Berardi on the internet telling people its easy to lose weight if only they purchase his courses or follow ‘his way’.   It’s this oversimplified approach to weight management that is contributing to biases or discrimination toward to obese patients, and it is hampering our ability to deal with the actual problem at hand.

Its not January, yet, we have a month to get ready for the Holidays!  As promised, HealthOut wants to help you make better lifestyle choices, so here are some helpful things to focus on in December. 

-       December’s Fitness Challenge – “Don’t Gain Weight!”

o   Forget the weight loss challenges, a much better goal is to prevent weight gain!  When your body is not in energy balance and you are gaining weight, you are usually not healthy; your liver enzymes are elevated, blood pressure is higher, blood sugar levels are higher, and the accompanying inactivity is causing you to waste away and feel less like yourself.  

o   While the scale can be your enemy for creating unreasonable expectations and goals for weight loss, it can be your ally when trying to prevent sneaky increases in weight over time.  Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, or don’t throw out the scale with the weight loss!

o   It’s much easier to prevent weight gain than to lose weight.  Every time you put on weight, it is less likely to come off.  And the longer it stays on, the less likely it is that you will be able to lose it. 

-       Focus on Behaviours, not Numbers on a Scale

o   Set time or calorie targets of physical activity per week, or set goals of higher vegetable intake.  Success in these areas will strongly impact your health and quality of life, regardless of whether you lose weight or not.

-       Forget Will Power and Prevent Hunger

o   Will power is an oversimplified term, and focusing on having more of it is not helpful – stop using it or trying to rely on it.  Instead, focus on things that work, and break down your problem situations in detail so you can learn from them.

o   Preventing hunger is much more useful than trying to have will power….don’t go into situations where there is rich, easy to consume foods when you are hungry, most people overeat in this scenario.

-       Plan Ahead

o   Schedule your diet and physical activity just like you schedule your work and social arrangements – put it in your calendar, and if you know you will be challenged to stay within your usual caloric intake, then make a plan that allows for some discretion. 

o   Adjusting to overeating by exercising heavily afterward does not work.  Plan ahead and exercise a bit more first, or eat a bit less during the day if you think you could overeat later in the day or even the week.

o   If you have trouble saying no to food in social situations, then practice what you might say in order to be assertive yet respectful with others.

-       Don’t show others you Love them by overfeeding them

o   Certain holiday customs such as eating until you are so full that it hurts, or serving as much rich foods to your loved ones possible are harmful, which is ironic because it is a time of year when we are trying to show each other love and appreciation.  Stop feeding your loved ones so much food – be part of a solution to weight gain, not part of the problem.

-       What are Your Individual Challenges and Successes?

o   Everyone is different, and this is why there is not single approach that works for everyone.  You likely already know what trips you up and what helps you stay on track from the past.  These are often related to your unique drivers of weight gain, and can help you immensely when going into a challenging period such as the holidays.  Include your own unique challenges and strengths when making your plan. 

I hope these tips prove helpful over the holidays, and I look forward helping you learn to balance your energy in 2018!

Dr. Ryan Oughtred, ND