It’s probably no surprise that I see the topic weight loss come up all the time. I write a blog about fitness and I follow a lot of people on social media that are active in the “fitness universe”. I am passionate about fitness and nutrition and read books and articles about it daily. On the school run I listen to trainers and doctors on YouTube talking about exercising and nutrition. I go to the gym five times a week and talk to a lot of people. And it seems that losing weight is a common denominator in all these discussions.
But it’s not just in the gym or on social media. The other day I went to the grocery store and when the shop clerk weighed my (admittedly huge) bunch of curly kale – yes, in this part of the world they still weigh the vegetables and fruit for you – she started saying how she needs to lose weight and pointed to her protruding belly. She probably thought a customer who buys kale must be on a weight loss diet.
Food and Weight Loss
I find that in the fitness world on social media weight loss is omnipresent. And it’s not just amateurs and professionals that prepare for a bikini or bodybuilding competition. It’s the young professionals, the mums and dads, the students. Posts abound about what to eat, what not to eat, how to weigh every single morsel you eat and have it in the right macro percentage. People who precook on Sunday for the whole week so they can eat their chicken breast and steamed broccoli for lunch every day.
Some people post every single meal they have – not because it’s so delicious or well crafted and beautifully presented or because they absolutely love the taste – no, just because it’s low-fat, high-protein or has (what they think) perfect macro ratios.
Losing the Joy of Food
All this leaves me wondering if we’re not completely approaching this from the wrong end. We’re losing the joy and social aspect that comes with great food. Enjoying food, sharing food, cooking and eating together. It’s part of our human history. In my opinion, constantly thinking about what to eat and not to eat and what quantities to eat presents a slippery slope into an eating disorder.
Exercise and Weight Loss
Weight loss also seems to be the focus of many people when they exercise. How many calories have been burnt and was it fat or glycogen? Will an afterburn lead to more weight loss? They are wondering if they should do aerobic or anaerobic workouts and for how many minutes exactly to lose fat. And the probably most googled question relating to exercise: How long will it take me to get that six pack?
The Fun of Being Active
All this makes us lose the joy and freedom that comes with moving our bodies. My son doesn’t see football or playing tag with his friends as exercise. It’s fun, it’s a game. Children love to be active, but somehow most of us lose this love for movement when we grow up. And if exercise is only the means to burning calories or look a certain way (“toned arms”, “round bottom” etc.), then our workouts become just another chore on our never-ending to do list.
Focus on Health First
I really wonder why we are so concerned about weight loss? That number can vary widely from day to day, hour to hour. I have written a whole blog about why the number on the scale is actually meaningless when it comes to losing fat (which is what most people actually mean when they say they want to “lose weight”). Why are we obsessed about a dress size (which we all know can vary hugely between brands)?
I believe what we are actually after is not weightloss – I believe that most of us want to be healthy and look healthy in the long term. We want to live long fulfilled lives and see our children and grandchildren grow up and avoid chronic diseases. Part of that is being a healthy weight at a healthy bodyfat percentage since we all know that being overweight is a symptom of being unhealthy.
What I am trying to get at here is the following: Wouldn’t it be much more helpful to think of food and exercise as something that contributes to our health, our physical and mental wellbeing?
Let me say that another way: We need to reframe our thinking around health and wellbeing to not just be measured and judged by a number on a scale.
We know that a weight loss diet may (or may not) work for a little while and then all the weight comes back on. We all know that we could just stop eating and we would lose weight – and when we start eating again it will come back.
A crash diet or detox programme cannot fix an unhealthy lifestyle. It may be helpful to get a jumpstart into a lifestyle change, but it is not sustainable longterm. And we want to enjoy life without starvation, deprivation and feeling forced to exercise.
If you are healthy, the weight is taking care of itself. If you enjoy exercise because you love doing it and it makes you feel good, happy, and sleep better, you can stop worrying about the weight and stop feeling like exercise is just another item to be ticked off on your endless to-do-list.
I have mentioned this in so many of my blogs: There is no point in exercising if you don’t enjoy it. It’s absolutely crucial to pick an activity that you like. If you don’t like spinning, don’t do it. If you don’t like running on a treadmill (and seriously, does anyone really enjoy that?), then don’t do it. Go play football, basketball, go hiking or make your garden a project. If the stress hormone cortisol is high, your body cannot burn fat. That’s also why rest is so important. Pushing yourself for hours every day in the gym can be counterproductive as a result if your goal is to “lose weight”.
So what can you do to stop obsessing about that number on the scale? Here is what I do:
- Think of your health first. We all know that alcohol and tobacco is bad for you. And I think that most of us know that processed foods and sugar is bad for you. Don’t think of depriving yourself when you’re not eating a doughnut. Think of it as being good for you. Eat to nourish your body. You are what you eat, 100%. Your cells in your body are constantly renewing and you supply the building blocks with what you eat. Your skin for example is renewed every one to two months. Try eating good nutritious natural food for two months and look in the mirror, I guarantee you will see it.
- Find exercise that you enjoy. If you absolutely hate the gym then don’t go. Go for long walks instead. Kick a ball around with your kids. Start gardening. Don’t think of “exercise” as a “must-do”, just get moving. Find a friend who would like to join you to find an activity. You could check out yoga studios together, try tennis lessons, join a cycling club or like me, start doing some martial arts.
- Stop listening to people that are constantly concerned about their weight and diet. Who discourage you from even trying. Stop hanging around negative people and people who are only concerned with looks. Surround yourself with people who are inspiring you to be healthy and active.
I really hope this is helpful for you, in your quest to be the happiest and healthiest. Please share if you have a great strategy to stay healthy, I am always grateful to learn more.