Don’t Try to Lose Weight!

Yes, the holidays are over and millions of people are guilt-ridden over the amount of pumpkin and pecan pie, coconut and carrot cake, homemade cookies and candies, turkey and ham they have consumed over the past six weeks.  So begin the pilgrimages to weight loss centers and gyms to rid themselves of their excess tonnage and their guilt.  People grasp desperately for any and every diet that promises quick weight loss.

Let me make it clear that I am not a dietitian, a medical doctor, or an exercise guru.  What I share with you comes from numerous trainings on the topic of eating disorders put on by a variety of experts across several disciplines.  Plus, over the last twenty years I’ve counseled scores of people with disordered eating and done screenings for people considering bariatric surgery.

The first thing you need to understand is why we are obssessed with dieting and losing weight.  Dr. Deborah Newman identifies what she calls “Seven Lies the World Tells Us About Our Bodies.”  These lies lead people down a path that will leave them forever dissatisfied.  They are as follows:

  1. If I change something about my body, I will finally like myself.
  2. My outward appearance is the most important thing about me.
  3. Everyone can look like movie starts or fashion models if they diet enough and work at it enough.
  4. Attractive people don’t have any problems.
  5. Being overweight is a sin.
  6. I must compete with other women and look as good as they do.
  7. My body is who I am.

Here is a secret about diets no one tells you:  they work and they don’t work. 

Here’s why they workNearly every diet is based on restricting your intake of certain foods.  If you choose the Rhubarb Diet (or any other such absurd diet, i.e. watermelon diet, cabbage soup diet, etc) and all you eat is rhubarb, eventually you will get tired of eating rhubarb and won’t eat as much of it.  So instead of eating five giant helpings of rhubarb a day you will barely be able to choke down a few mouthfuls of thubarb.  Guess what this does?  Cuts down greatly on your caloric intake!  And that’s why you lose weight.  It ain’t the rhubarb, honey.

And here is why diets don’t workThey take you on a very predictable train ride:

  • First stop – Excitement.  “I’ve just found a new diet!” 
  • Second stop – the Last Meal before your execution.  Eat all you can before dawn tomorrow!
  • Third stop – It Works!  You experience weight loss (but it’s mostly water).
  • Fourth stop – Adaptation and Craving.  By this time your body has adjusted to the reduced intake and slowed its metabolism.  This results in a plateauing of your weight.  Suddenly all you can think about is food!
  • Fifth stop – Frustration and Rebellion.  You soon regress to a six year old, stomping your foot because you aren’t losing weight and telling yourself, “No one can tell me what I can eat and can’t eat!”
  • Six stop – Gain Weight & Give Up.  As soon as your weight begins going back up you are stricken with feelings of shame.  So you throw up your hands in defeat.
  • Last stop – I’ve Got to Do Something.  And the solution?  “I’ve just found a new diet!”  (All aboard!  The train ride starts all over again.)

This is why I tell people, “Don’t try to lose weight.”  There is a subliminal message you give to your body with that thought.  The message is, “I’m going to get rid of part of you.”  I believe this encourages your body’s resistance to your weight loss efforts.  It’s a tug-of-war between your will and your body.

If your goal is to lose weight, you will modify your life (by going on a diet) until you reach your goal.  Then you will revert to your former way of life (and pick up the weight you loss, plus 5-10% more).

So what’s the answer?  Change your goal!  Dr. Ralph Carson, RD, PhD, stated that everything we know about reducing body weight is summed up in this five-word formula:  reduce calories and increase metabolism.  Let your goal be to live a healthier life, which includes eating healthy and exercising appropriately.  Our bodies are perfectly designed so that if there needs to be weight added or reduced they will do it on their own, if we are following the above formula.

This year’s New Year’s Resolution needs to be “Live a Healthier Life.”


[If you need help in knowing how to “eat healthy” or in setting up an eating plan (NOT a diet plan), I offer three suggestions:  first of all, consult with a Registered Dietician.  These folks are not as hard to find as you might think.  Every hospital and every extended care facility has to have a dietician either on staff or with whom they contract to provide their services.  My experience is that these folks are extremely eager to offer helpful advice to individuals who are trying to live a healthier life.

Secondly, consider following a diabetic eating plan, even if you are not diabetic.  You can quickly find these in your local library or on the web.

Thirdly (and the suggestion I most often make), join Weight Watchers.  Three things make their approach successful.  You are allowed to eat a variety of foods; actually you can eat anything you want.  The food diary that is required acts as an accountability partner, keeping you honest with yourself about what you are actually putting into your mouth.  And then there is the support you receive from a group of people who, just like you, is trying to live a healthy life.

People often make the exercise component of living a healthier life way too complicated and expensive.  You do not have to join a gym or hire a personal trainer in order to get benefits from exercise, though those can be a part of your plan.  For many years I have had a habit of walking two miles a day at least four days a week.  It is part of my lifestyle.  Don’t use the elevator or escalator, climb the stairs.  Park your car as far away from the front of the store as you can.  Use fifteen minutes of your lunch time to walk or stretch.]

(*Note:  There can be metablolic disorders that certainly affect a person’s weight.  Everyone needs to be sure they have had a thorough physical with appropriate blood work to rule out any abnormalities that need addressing.)

{This post also appeared on the website Finding Balance  “the world’s largest media-based resource for people seeking balance with food and body image.”}

11 thoughts on “Don’t Try to Lose Weight!

  1. I don’t drop a ton of comments, however i did some searching and wound up here Dont Try to Lose Weight! thefrontwindow. And I actually do have a few questions for you if it’s allright.
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  2. First of all I want to say wonderful blog! I had a quick
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    1. I used to have the very same problem but now I can write in ten minute spurts, if that’s all the time I have. It’s not true that you have to have hours set aside in order to write effectively, although I used to believe it and work that way. The key to writing is to write. Don’t wait until everything is perfectly formulated in your mind. Just start writing your thoughts down as they come to you, then you can go back and edit and put them in an order that is coherent to others. What this does is allow your mind to continue to move rapidly instead of getting stuck in a tar pit for thirty minutes while you decide exactly what adjective you want to use. This crushes your creativity.
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  4. Thanks for this post! I think the hardest thing for
    me and for most people is not only trying to find
    ways to workout and lose weight but to also to also make it enjoyable.
    I find that if I play a sport that I like such as basketball
    or if I take my dog for a run and play frisbee
    works well. Anything is better than running around in circles on a track or sitting on
    a stationary bicycle all day.

    Eating food with no taste isn’t going to help you to lose weight either. I try to look for fun and delicious food to cook so that my brain associates eating healthy with great tasting food.

    Thanks again for writing this article. There’s not a lot of
    good information about being healthy. I know that this
    is going to help a lot of people!

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