Don’t lose weight to be healthy. Be healthy to lose weight

Talk about weight loss these days, and you’ll probably be overwhelmed with opinions on different diet and exercise programs.

Although these conversations happen countless times every day in the United States, they generally yield disheartening results for two reasons: 1) First, because when you go beyond personal preferences and ideologies, there is little or no evidence that a specific diet or exercise program is superior for weight loss purposes;1 and 2) because when weight loss discussions get lost in the maze of diet and exercise dogma, they arguably overlook the most important factor for success: your weight loss psychology. .

All is fair in love, war and weight loss.

The conventional psychology of weight loss in the United States is apparent in popular TV shows such as The biggest loser. This psychology promotes radical changes in diet and exercise and a breed mentality towards weight loss. From this perspective, boot camp exercise programs, liquid cleansing diets, and even tapeworms2– no matter how unsustainable, nutritionally inadequate, or even dangerous – are considered fair game in our culture because they are based on a hidden assumption: that weight loss is good for you, regardless of the condition. how it is obtained. But is it really true? And what happens to people when this “lose weight by any means necessary” psychology manifests itself in practice?

The image below summarizes two types of weight loss psychology. One of these psychology of weight loss is – unfortunately – extremely common and deeply ingrained in our culture, although it is counter-productive for weight loss and often detrimental to health, while the other psychology of weight loss is relatively rare but invaluable to the person seeking a weight loss experience producing improved energy, mood and vitality. Do you want to guess which is which?

Two Psychologies of Weight Loss. Choose wisely!

Source: Thomas Rutledge, 2022

The purpose of the image above is to illustrate how a given person’s weight loss psychology creates a cascade of influences shaping their weight loss methods (e.g., types of nutrition changes and of exercise it provides), their short and long term effects. focus, and whether they pursue weight loss in a way that also improves their health and quality of life more broadly.

In the lower portion of the image, you additionally see specific examples of how the psychology of weight loss not only influences a person’s weight loss methods, but also their weight loss and weight loss results. health for better or for worse.

Consider the accidental plight of the typical person who seeks to lose weight for personal or medical reasons. They’ve probably been taught all their lives that weight loss is healthy no matter the method. They have likely been exposed to numerous products, advertisements, and experts on TV and the Internet promoting extreme approaches to weight loss. And they have almost certainly witnessed examples of people using these methods through their social networks.

Yet no matter how great the weight loss results they’ve seen in others (or experienced personally), they probably feel compelled to follow the same path. Unfortunately, this path is actually a circle, almost invariably leading the person back to where they started.

This “lose weight to be healthy” psychology acts like a cultural spell, beguiling the minds of the American population. Once cast, this spell is hard to resist and the effects last a long time. For many, the effects will last a lifetime. Because this detrimental psychology to weight loss is so prevalent – ​​not just among the general public but even among medical professionals – I think it’s essential to be able to offer a clear and practical alternative.

The primary focus on improving health puts the horse before the cart. Informed by a focus on health, a person can more easily prioritize nutrition over calories, pleasure over fanatical exercise options, and wellness over obsessed weight loss. by the scale. It’s a mindset not only for success with weight loss but, more importantly, for a richer, more rewarding life.

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