Many people want to lose weight. This should come as no surprise, as weight loss is one of the most popular searches on the internet, dominates book store shelves, and is talked about on Facebook and around the water cooler. But, why do people want to lose weight?
In my experience they want to lose weight for one or more of the following reasons:
- A wedding
- A birthday
- A reunion
- A vacation
- Doctor’s orders due to poor health
- Want to keep up with my kids or grand kids
In other words, appearance is the most common reason people want to lose weight.
Improving their health often comes a distant second.
But is weight loss really what they need?
Will losing excess body fat make them happy?
Will losing excess body fat make them healthy?
I’m always bothered when a meet a new client and they want to slim down for a appearance reasons.
I’ve seen this attitude too many times.
They jump in with both feet, want record breaking weight loss – note I said “weight loss“. This is because they don’t care where the weight comes from, as long as the scale goes down. If I press they will say they don’t want it to come from bone or muscle, but as a whole, they don’t care – and they often end up worse than they started.
Getting fit for appearance reasons is troubling to me because it is almost always short-lived and often disrespectful to the body. People become shortsighted when focusing on body composition and don’t give good health the attention and respect it deserves.
Without your health, you have nothing. Think about all those things you enjoy in life. Without a working body, it’s pretty hard to do or experience these things.
Without your health, nothing else matters.
We only have one body in this life. If we trash it, we’re done. We just lay around and wait to die.
Repairing the body never brings it back to its original state. Modern medicine is amazing, but nothing beats the original health most of us were born with.
This is why I am a proponent of an attitude, or philosophy called Health at Every Size.
Health At Every Size
HAES is a movement that is starting to grow in acceptance across the nation. It challenges the value in promoting weight loss for improved health. The HAES movement focusses on physiological measures of health – rather than the simplicity, and misleading factor, of total body weight.
In other words, skinny does not mean healthy. Being thin or of an ideal body composition, does not mean a person is healthy.
And likewise, having a high fat body composition does not mean a person is unhealthy.
This has been Live Fit’s attitude from the beginning.
This philosophy focuses on objective measures of good health such as:
- Blood pressure, lipids, sugar levels, etc.
- Activity frequency, duration, and intensity
It also factors:
- Emotional, social, occupational, intellectual, spiritual, and ecological aspects which contribute to a person’s health.
Good health is not related to body weight. The HAES philosophy goes on to say that:
- Any behavioral changes you make should be focused on health improvement, not weight.
- Weight is not a behavior it is a result of lifestyle.
Not everyone can achieve their “ideal” body composition and maintain it for the rest of their lives. There are many factors that lead a person to gain, and maintain, excess body weight. But, regardless of this, everybody CAN improve their health and fitness.
Behavior vs Outcome
Losing weight is not a behavior, but an outcome, or result, of healthy behavior. In other words, weight loss does not create change, but change in behavior will create the loss of excess body fat.
Many people have the notion that losing weight will improve their life. They think it will make them happy, or that everything will go their way once they lose “the weight.” But this is seldom the case. Fix yourself first. Change those factors that are ruining your health, and most of the time, everything else will fall into place. Ask yourself this: Why are you out of shape or overweight? If you say it’s because you eat too much, consider why you eat too much.
Excess body weight may be holding you back a little, but chances are weighing less is not going to change your life – for long.
What Do You Need To Feel Healthy, Wealthy, Joyful, And Fit?
As an example, every day I need to eat fresh healthy foods, exercise, sleep for 8 hours, cuddle, and have some quiet time. In no particular order.
You and I may have a different list, but as long as it is health producing and not detracting, it is a good list. Decide what you need to make you happy, write it down and then devise a plan to achieve this on a daily basis.
The Relationship Between Good Health and Body Weight
Focusing on body weight, as our modern culture tends to do, will typically become negative in some way. If a person’s primary motivation for exercising is weight loss, and that weight loss does not meet their expectations, they will likely lose their motivation – even if they have become healthier.
Even if this is not the case, an extrinsic motivator like weight loss, generally will not hold up for long. There is often an attitude that enables a person to quit or back off when they have met their goal. As if meeting it means they are done. Then the inevitable happens and they are back up to where they were, and usually higher.
Focusing on weight loss also tends to cause an emotional attachments that will eventually lead to a breakdown. How many of you have had your mood altered by the number on a scale? If you focus on your healthy behaviors such as smart eating and activities, sleep and emotional health, then your body will get rid of the excess weight that it no longer needs.
Focusing on weight is a precarious place to be as the motivation to continue efforts hang on the daily success of the perceived weight loss and can easily fall victim to temporary weight gain from natural body fluctuations such as: sodium intake, menstrual cycle, and food in the intestines.
Equating thinness with good health is also a slippery slope. This is not only a false notion, but can lead a person toward psychological disorders and abuse of their one and only body.
This is why weight loss must come from the mind. The mindset must change for the body to change.
Evidence has shown that a person can be physically healthy and carry too much body fat – as long as the excess body fat is not damaging the joints of the lower body or the vital organs. A physically active person is healthier than a sedentary person no matter how much they weigh or how much excess body fat they carry. Adequate physical activity will improve blood lipid profiles, glycemic control, the cardiorespiratory system, muscle strength, and bone density.
The Cost of Carrying Excess Weight
Despite the reality that a person can be fit and fat, there are some physiological limitations to this. The joints of our lower body will wear out more rapidly with people that weigh more than people who weigh less. It doesn’t matter where the weight comes from. Fat, muscle or a back pack, weight is weight on the joints. Jogging is not an advisable activity for heavier people. Though there is not a standardized weight limit to this activity, I would recommend that people weighing upwards of 200 pounds should dedicate their time to less damaging activities than running. Walking is less damaging than running. Swimming, cycling, rowing, and aerobics-type classes are good choices for heavier people.
Additionally, abdominal obesity is harmful to the organs in that region of the body. This “visceral adiposity” has been shown to increase cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Regular physical activity, especially with a session or two a week of high intensity, will greatly reduce the risks normally associated with excess body fat.
Good health and a healthy body weight are directly linked. However, the larger picture is that not everyone is able to reduce their body fat to a generally recognized safe and healthy level. The good news is, you may not need to attain the body composition you had when you were 18 to improve your longevity, energy, and physical abilities.
Maintaining healthy eating habits and daily, strenuous physical activity is your best weapon against obesity, discomfort, and early mortality. I believe it is more important to focus on health promoting behaviors that contribute to a healthy quality of life. When a person focuses on body weight, they are missing the big picture, which is a better quality of life.
Reaching your ideal body weight by sacrificing your physical and emotional (and sometimes your social) health is not something I want to see anyone do. The number on the scale is not worth it. If this number is important to you, ask yourself “why?” Then ask yourself “but why is that important?” Perhaps this will lead you in the direction of making good health your priority rather than a 2 dimensional device.
If you are living a health improving lifestyle, your body will get rid of the excess body fat and you will be fit and healthy enough to enjoy it – for life.