One of the most common reactions to what I write about learning to accept our bodies at the weight they are and taking a Health at Every Size® approach is, “But I’m not at the weight I’m supposed to be…I should be XXX pounds because that’s what I was [when I was my healthiest weight; when I was an athlete in college; before I had three kids; before I developed this knee condition; when I ran marathons all the time].” I totally get it. Lots of us have that utopian time in our lives when our weight was perfect (or so we think in hindsight), our health was optimal, and we were going to live forever…and we so desperately want to get back to it.
Even when, intellectually, we know that dieting doesn’t work, that weight loss is typically short-term (<3 years) at best, that even when our own personal experiences tell us that previous weights were not sustainable, we resist in accepting this. I recently read a great term for this: data resistance, meaning no matter how clear the science is on this topic, people still want to believe that long-term weight loss is possible for more than a tiny fraction of people. The propensity for magical thinking is strong in us humans, and weight is no exception.
Let’s roll with it, then. Maybe you aren’t at your optimal weight. Do you want to diet to try to get there? Is that something that has been sustainable for you in the past? If not, why do you think things would be different this time? What happens if, despite all your efforts, you never get anywhere close to your desired weight? How do you live your life then? What happens if the weight you are now is your weight for the rest of your life? I think it’s worth it to have this conversation with yourself, so you at least have some options.
There are also important things to know before you decide what to do next. First of all, despite what we have been told ad nauseam by the diet industry, your weight is not really within your control, at least in the long term. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you are well aware by now that intentional weight loss has a 90-95% failure rate over the long haul (>5 years). If you’re new to this blog, head on over to my Scientific Lit page and have a look for yourself.
Your weight is really determined by a combination of your genetics, your metabolism, and your environment (past and present) – and not so much by the weight you actually want to be. Do you have fat parents or family members (genetics)? Have you spent any part of your life restricting calories or foods (environment)? And if so, did you know that your metabolism is probably running slower than if you hadn’t (metabolism, obviously)? Possibly most significantly, if you have made multiple weight loss attempts throughout your life or were put on diets as a child, your natural set point will be higher than what it might have been had this never happened. Unfortunately, we’ve all been fed the calories in/calories out bullshit, and have been taught that calories out are totally within our control, when in reality our sneaky metabolism comes along and adjusts everything to make sure we aren’t spending too much energy, because Lord knows the body loves homeostasis.
So now you’re well-armed with information about the spectacular failure of long-term weight manipulation. That’s all well and dandy, you think, but maybe I’ll be one of the 5% who keep the weight off. Maybe you will be! I was for a long while – before The Diet Monster took over my life and made me more miserable than I had ever been as a fat person. It’s a dicey gamble to make – you might be one of the 5% who manages to maintain long-term weight loss by making it your life’s work, OR you might be one of the 95% who gains some, all, or even more of your weight back, leaving you even fatter than you started. In the words of Dirty Harry, “You gotta ask yourself, ‘Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya??
“But I’m simply not healthy at this weight.” Hey, you might not be. I don’t know your particular health habits or your lab values. Just remember, though, that weight is not a health behavior; it’s a size. Health at Every Size® does not purport to say that everyone is healthy at whatever weight they’re at; it simply means that whatever weight you are right now, you can start to work toward better health. So maybe your health isn’t great right now – is losing weight truly the only way you can improve your health? What about improving your eating habits or activity level? If you consider yourself too large to exercise, check out The Fat Chick’s webpage for activity for people of all sizes. Plenty of studies show that fitness is a better determinant of health than fatness and recently even more are showing that weight loss in some populations is associated with greater mortality rates.
“Well, I’m just not comfortable at this size.” I understand; moving in a thin body is different than moving in a fat body. While I personally don’t notice all that much difference (I’m lazy at both ends of the weight spectrum!), I also recognize that my weight difference might not be as great as someone else’s and that my experience is not universal (I also developed osteoarthritis in my feet at my thinnest, so even that wasn’t a guard against joint problems). Whether your discomfort is physical or psychological, how much do you think our culture’s prevailing attitudes about weight are influencing your discomfort with your weight?
I used to feel like I had to suck in my stomach, no matter what weight I was. As I regained weight, my stomach was beyond sucking in – I could tighten those ab muscles all I wanted, but that layer of fat wasn’t going anywhere. Sucking in made me feel physically uncomfortable. Not sucking in made me feel psychologically uncomfortable. I felt out of proportion, and I felt like I was being outed by my tummy as a fat person. When I finally acknowledged that how I felt about my stomach had more to do with how the world views fat people and less to do with how I actually felt, I eased up on my expectations of my body. If your feelings of discomfort are 100% physical, consider non-diet approach in which you could find activities that you are comfortable doing right now, and work your way up from there. Bodies are amazingly adaptable, especially when we are being kind to them.
I wish I could tell you that our brains controlled our weight. That it’s just a matter of trying really hard and you’ll have some satisfying weight loss that lasts forever without totally ruining the quality of your life. My own personal experience, the experiences of all the other people I’ve met in the fatosphere, and the bulk of available science on the subject does not permit me to do so. I can only recommend a kinder approach in which you let your body decide what it will weigh – it will do that eventually anyway – while you find your own way of living as healthfully as you want and can. That will give you a stable weight that is right for you. Because, with this one life you have, how long do you really want to struggle against your body?
Dietitians Unplugged episode coming this week!
Be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on iTunes or Libsyn, and leave us a review if you enjoy it!
Click here if you just want my newsletter!
Welcome to food freedom! Dare to Not Diet LLC is owned by Glenys Oyston, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Therapist and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. It's time to feel good about eating, your body, and your health.
Thanks, glad you liked! I have not met Isabel but love her work. There are several other RDs who practice HAES/intuitive eating: Christy Harrison http://www.christyharrison.com/ (blog and podcast); Julie Dillon http://www.juliedillonrd.com/ (blog and podcast); The Moderation Movement in Australia has great FB posts https://www.facebook.com/moderationmovement ; my dear friend and podcast partner Aaron Flores at http://www.bvmrd.com has a private practice in LA and blogs occasionally; Be Nourished has an online course http://benourished.org/ ; Rebecca Scritchfield has a podcast http://www.rebeccascritchfield.com/. These are only a few that came to mind, there are actually so many more! I also love some body image coaches: Summer Innanen http://summerinnanen.com/ (blog, podcast, e-books); Tiana the Fat Health Coach is someone I just found out about http://tianadodson.com/. Really, there are so many of us HAES bloggers/practitioners/podcasters – once you find one you can usually find more!
That was going to be my response, as well. There are lots of us out there with a Health at Every Size philosophy. ASDAH has a directory you can search: https://www.sizediversityandhealth.org/content.asp?id=32
Ah, perfect Daxle – that’s exactly the best place to find all the HAES folks!!
I couldn’t possibly agree more! Have you read the book “Intuitive Eating”? Reading that book was the first time I had been introduced to the concept of allowing your body to settle into its natural weight. What a gorgeously control-free thought (and that’s coming from a total control freak!). I’ve actually lost about 10 pounds in the last year, since giving birth to my daughter and adopting a clean, active lifestyle. My family has been really worried about me, telling me I need to gain some weight! The truth is, I believe this is my body’s natural, intuitive weight. Before, I had struggled with eating disorders and even just eating obsession, and now I feel so nourished and carefree about the way I eat. I keep explaining to them – I’m much happier now! This is the way my body is responding to my healthy lifestyle – who am I to decide it’s wrong??
Thanks for posting. I discovered your blog the other day and today I plan on listening to your podcast as well. 🙂 Your insights are lovely!
Thank you so much Kelsie! Yes, Intuitive Eating is a fantastic book, and I base so much of my eating philosophy on that (I also love Ellyn Satter’s Eating competence model – I probably sway a little more that way in how I practice and in my own life – slightly different but similar ideas). Thank you so much for reading and listening – I hope you enjoy and comment often!
I’ll check out Ellyn Satter’s eating competence model – thank you!! Absolutely.
I recommend Secrets of Feeding A Healthy Family – working my way through that one again. Wonderful commonsense approach. So then people have to approaches to pick from – Intuitive Eating and Eating Competence. So many wonderful ways to not diet!
That will be a great read for me, since my blog is focused on healthy family living. Thanks Glenys! About to go on a walk with my daughter and listen to your podcast.
I couldn’t agree more with this blog!!! Nicely written, I love it! It is so true that we always have this urgency to lose our weight and sometimes no matter how hard we try, we just can’t get there. It’s difficult and as you said it’s not for everyone. Some people just don’t understand that we are not all build the same way and that some people lose weight without any effort and some people can’t lose it at all no matter how hard they try. I think that as long as you are happy and comfortable in your body you shouldn’t think of weight. Being who you are and being happy as you are is the only right thing. Nobody has time for stressing about those extra kilos.
Very well said!Let’s just be happy that’s all that matters.Stop depriving nor restricting yourself because you wanna be as fit as the Models! Let’s be proud of Our own body!
Exactly! We shpuld love ourselves the way we are. We would be a dull race if we were all the same. I think that people that want to look like models don’t like their body and that is sad because most models represent an unhealthy image..
I would say that models typically represent only one body type, which is very slim. I’m not sure about unhealthy, as I remain convinced we cannot diagnose someone’s health by their size, thin or fat. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we saw a fantastic range of body sizes and shapes in the modeling community, from very slim all the way to very fat, with all sizes in between represented? Then we wouldn’t have to aspire to look like models since we already would look like models!
Exactly!! I agree with you. I have heard that some are already trying to pursue other sizes into modeling and I hope that that is true and that the indistry really is changing. I know that curves are welcomed more and more and I hope that some day I will see a fashion show with variety of models will walk on that runway
perfect timing for me to read that! thank you! I really need to get my head straight and STOP comparing myself to myself 20 or 10 years ago, or to much younger athlete friends, or to anybody actually 🙂
your note helped a lot
[…] via The Weight You’re Supposed to Be — Dare To Not Diet […]
A recovering patient once said something so wise, it stuck with me and I have repeated it often: “It finally dawned on me….why should I care about the force of gravity on my body????” (which is pretty much all a scale can tell you!)
I loved what you said about life being short……and spending your precious time and energy on what is important in life (having energy to do fun things, very important if you ask me! you need enough food for that!). Anyway, loved this post!
How lovely to read this today! I just posted a blurb about Geneen Roth’s book- which i just RE read, for reasons i’m sure you are familiar with. Funny things happen after age 40, suddenly the weight I maintained from 30-39 is looking really great, if only i thought so at the time! lol! I look forward to reading more of your posts. thank you!
As always, thank you for your real, honest and thoughtful post! I will be sharing with my clients.
Reblogged this on This is the nth time that I have tried to lose weight and commented:
I love this post so much.
Nice article. Thanks
I couldn’t read to finish, but dieting lasts only 3 Years???!!
Yes, typical weight loss results last only 3 years, at which point the weight usually has been at least partially regained. That result is even more dramatic by five years. The science is solid on this. Dieting behavior of course may last much longer.
*tears flowing*. Ok. Thanks
Thank you so much for this post. It’s so important for people to realise you don’t need to be stick thin to be happy. Life is about enjoyment rather than wasting time being miserable because of your diet.
Now this is a fantastic approach! So glad I came over here to read this post especially!
That was great information…Even I am a Dietician it enhanced my knowledge more…Great Going…ALL THE BEST
This is a fantastic post and one I have been needing to read! Thank you.
Dear Glenys, I’m a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist working with eating disorders and promoting Intuitive Eating in Russia. It’s a brilliant text and I hope you would write a book one day. Your texts I read regularly give me so much inspiration. Thank you for your work. Sincerely yours, Svetlana Bronnikova, PhD.
Great post, Glenys! I love the bulldog/greyhound example! And, I’d like to add my name to the list of HAES dietitians.
Yes, absolutely – I used to read you regularly at More of Me To Love!