I’m changing my weight success program. Here’s why.
Last month, dozens of you opened up and told me all about your weight struggles in an online survey. Many of you really took your time in sharing vulnerably, telling me all about some of your most painful thoughts and feelings related to your weight.
You openly shared about your struggles in habits, emotions, and confusion.
Your struggles are very personal. And yet, I heard the same themes repeated several times. Many of you told me about how your weight triggers feelings of depression, anxiety, guilt, and even self-hatred. My heart cracked.
Some of you said you feel as though your brain and body are two separate entities. And you feel out of control, miserable. You described your experiences in words like shame, disgust, horrible self-esteem, unable to look at myself.
I’m honored that you shared so honestly with me. Your messages struck me deeply and haunted me. I found it hard to talk about for a few weeks.
I realized I’m contributing to the problem.
We have an obesity crisis. (Okay, that’s not exactly a news flash.)
We also have a mental health crisis. With millions of Americans medicating to relieve depression and anxiety (many of whom suffer with self-esteem problems), it’s not hard to draw a relationship between these two issues. I see it almost every day in private practice.
At war with food, with their instincts, and with themselves.
Men and women show up in my office routinely, exhausted from lackluster results in weight loss. Their sad eyes show me how they feel about the time, money and energy they’ve invested without the results to show.
They express anger, embarrassment, self-hatred, desperation.
After much will-power and courage, they’ve push aside delicious foods, favoring “delightful” options like rice cakes and applesauce with graham crackers. After a little while of underwhelming foods, many of them can take being underfed no longer. Their hungry bodies and instincts take over and grab food – lots of it. Starved, bored, and stressed, they binge on the foods they were really wanting: ice cream, cake, Taco Time, french fries . . . and feel absolutely horrible about themselves. Ashamed and feeling out of control, they sometimes purge to “atone” for their errors.
I know this pattern. I did this in college.
Eating disorders are on the rise.
Fear around weight gain makes disordered eating (anorexia, bingeing & purging, orthorexia) highly likely. Those who fall into disordered eating patterns – which are on a sharp rise for men, women, and children – are damaging their body and metabolism severely.
Some of my colleagues are seeing boys and girls as young as 5 years old with anorexia.
Some of my clients started obsessing about their weight as young as age five.
Orthorexia is also on the rise.
Have you heard of it?
It is a disordered eating pattern – now considered a medical condition – in which the individual systematically avoids certain foods because of fear that they are harmful.
Orthorexia is an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy.
The person with orthorexia has heard that there is something wrong with nearly every food out there. She has health issues she wants to address with nutrition (digestion, headaches, thyroid antibodies, fibromyalgia, or what have you).
She’s tried numerous approaches: Paleo, vegan, low-fat vegan, auto-immune protocol, GAPS, eat right for your blood type, raw food, Atkins, what have you. She goes to great lengths to cook everything at home (even turning down fun social opportunities).
She’s under-eating because she doesn’t trust food or herself.
Food is seen as the enemy.
I know this pattern too. This was me during my early years in practicing nutrition, and it took a few years to overcome.
Let me be clear: It’s the obsessiveness about “healthy” and “unhealthy” food that often triggers psychological warfare, which can lead to very unhealthy consequences.
Realizing that diet wars and confusing nutrition messages are at the heart of this mess. Nutrition is meant to be personalized, just like medicine should be. No one program can work for everyone.
Diets don’t work, and they never have.
The majority of people who “diet” without making permanent lifestyle changes regain all their lost weight, and then some. Diets have a nasty side effect of slowing metabolism, thanks to most diets promoting semi-starvation.
Hidden costs in the fat agenda
In our society, people who are overweight face stigmas, shame, and even ridicule. At every turn, there’s another message about how essential it is to normalize weight. And for goodness sake, what is “normal” weight?
“Ideal Weight” is a best guess
Authors of Intuitive Eating suggest that we don’t really know what a person’s ideal weight should truly be. But your body knows what it’s ideal weight should be, and it might not look like you’ve been told it should.
Thin doesn’t always equal “healthy”
Some thin people may be considered “healthy” by medical and societal standards. Yet, many healthy people do not exercise or eat clean, balanced food because they aren’t motivated. They are “healthy”.
Overweight doesn’t always equal “unhealthy”
On the other hand, many overweight and obese individuals workout every day and account for every calorie that crosses their lips. I’ve seen clients who eat less than 1000 calories per day, workout six days per week, and can’t lose in inch.
Some of them even gain weight.
You can imagine their heartache.
Do your best, and surrender the rest
First, let me say that we need to take 100% responsibility for our current conditions. Even if you can’t influence the outcomes of your weight 100%, you can still work on developing healthy habits that support a healthy weight.
However, some folks insist that someone would not be fat if they were truly eating “right” and exercising “enough”. I’ve even heard health care providers insist that clients are lying.
Such accusations are misguided and incorrect. And they really piss me off.
We’re not in control of everything.
Nutrition is gray
Nutrition should be personalized. There is no black & white. It is full of gray, and that’s why it’s often so confusing.
Nutrition should be personalized. It is gray, not black/white. That's why it's often confusing. http://bit.ly/1G1qUKJ @FrancesLArnold
We all have to contend, to varying degrees, with powerful forces that contribute to weight, which include,
- Learned behaviors (which take time to override);
- Stress (mental and physical contribute to weight outcomes);
- Social (are the majority of your friends or family overweight?);
- Chemical (when junk food companies are literally able to hijack your brain’s hard-wired cravings, you’ve got to learn the rules of the game to win it);
- Current nutrition (if your cells are starved for nourishment, you’ll be hungry . . . even when you’re overfed.)
- Advertorial (when junk food ads are nearly everywhere, of course we’ll feel tempted)
- Financial (can you afford to make necessary changes?);
- Hormones and aging;
- Environment (do you have easy access to safe outlets for exercise that don’t involve walking on a busy road without sidewalks?);
- Genetics (an ancestor’s famine can be your fate to be overweight);
- Current state of health (inflammation, digestion, auto-immunity, etc);
- Knowledge (do you know what you need to do to make necessary changes?);
- Skills (do you have skills in the kitchen or at the gym?)
- Support (do you have support from healthcare providers, friends, family?).
Overwhelmed? You’re normal.
Take-home message: Know your weaknesses. Develop strategies to maximize your ability to make healthier choices.
Become interested in your journey at least as much as your destination.
Stop looking for a quick weight loss fix. It leaves your metabolism in a worsened state.
No fad diet or overpriced weight loss will teach you what can take years to develop.
If what you expect is unrealistic, you set yourself up for misery.
I want to help you ditch the current diet mentality that causes so much anguish. I want you to feel at peace with yourself and your journey to a healthier version of you.
Because one of the most important things is that you respect, and hopefully learn to love, your body and yourself.
I’m re-evaluating my entire approach. I don’t want people to have another set of “rules” to follow (and feel miserable by).
Therefore, my weight coaching program won’t launch this month, as originally intended.
I’m taking some time to re-evaluate the research and best practices for how to establish a healthy, satisfying, and beneficial relationship with food.
This has led me into the tutelage of renowned experts in mindful eating, intuitive eating, and functional nutrition (more on that later – this post is long enough!).
You’re stuck with yourself until the end, so you may as well make friends with yourself.
I’m digging deep into my mindfulness roots to present ways that each of us can make peace with food.
You can normalize your weight without dieting. And “normal” weight may not equal “ideal” weight. Your job is to do your best and to make peace.
In fact, that’s much better for your metabolism. And for your mental and emotional well-being.
Interested in seeing what comes from this? Be sure you’re signed up for my newsletter (and you’ll get the cookbook “Foods that love you back”).
Now, I’d love to hear from you.
Where have diets left you? Have any of them changed your weight and body for the long term? Please tell me your experiences in the comments below.