If you are trying to lose weight, you are probably focusing a lot of effort on losing weight. But is this counter productive? Does focusing on weight loss make it harder to lose weight?
Why not focus on weight loss?
There are several reasons why focusing on weight loss as an end goal might not be the best thing to do.
You don’t have much control over the number on the scale.
When you focus on the number on the scale it doesn’t seem to make any sense. You can easily get discouraged when it doesn’t change when you think you are doing everything right. It is better to focus on things you can control – making healthy changes. Make your goals based on things you can control like eating more vegetables or getting daily exercise.
It may not be healthier
Some studies have shown that overweight people are as healthy as people at an “ideal” weight. This is contrary to advice that you need to be thinner to be healthy. In fact people that are considered overweight actually live longer. Experts are readjusting what constitutes a healthy weight as women get older
The deprivation that occurs during dieting is not necessarily healthy. Sometimes women who diet deprive themselves of necessary nutrients like fats, carbohydrates or protein. Or they go to a processed prepared meal plan that may meet the nutritional requirements but also includes preservatives and other ingredients that may not be healthy.
Dieting can lead to stress
Dieting can be stressful on your body and on your mind. Your body doesn’t like to not have the nutrients it expects and this causes physical stress. It can also be emotionally stressful. You are feeling hungry much of the time. You may be worried about a small (or a big) slip up. Or you are worried because your weight is not dropping as fast as you’d like despite doing everything right.
This can be counter productive because stress can end up causing your body to hold on to fat. And of course stress is not good for you.
Focusing on weight can lead to disordered eating patterns
Disordered eating covers a broad range of eating patterns. It covers what we know as eating disorders, but also any type of regular eating patterns that don’t meet physiological needs. This includes things like eating too much, eating too little, binge eating and even having strict rules about what to eat and when to eat. With its strict rules and underconsumption of food, dieting is considered a form of disordered eating.
When you start focusing on exactly how many calories or how much fat is in every bite you take, it leads to an over obsession with food, and the number on the scale. It can lead to poor body image. This is prevalent in women as they get older and the body shape starts to change.
Focusing strictly on weight loss can actually cause weight gain
If you are a victim of yoyo dieting then you have probably noticed that you might gain more weight back each time you diet. This is because your body sees the diet as starvation and actually tries really hard to hold on to the fat which can keep you alive if you are not getting enough to eat. Your metabolism might slow to compensate for the lower amount of food.
Your body might turn to muscle for the fuel it needs. This means your metabolism will slow down even more. Which makes it harder to prevent weight gain.
Focusing on weight loss often doesn’t fix what is causing your weight gain
We’ve finally realized that weight loss is not just about eating less and exercising more. Many things can contribute to weight gain. Poor digestive health, food intolerances, stress, lack of sleep and hormone imbalances can all contribute to weight gain. These are seldom addressed when dieting.
Even if your weight gain is caused by poor eating habits and lack of exercise diets usually don’t promote healthy eating or exercise. In fact many diets recommend against exercise or are so calorie restrictive that you won’t have the energy to exercise.
What can you do instead?
If you stop trying to lose weight and focus on habits that improve your health, there is a good chance you will slowly lose the weight you want. Some good things to focus on – getting physical activity almost every day, eating less sugar, eating less processed foods, eating more vegetables, practicing stress reduction techniques, etc. Rather than focus on every calorie you consume, focus on bulding healthy habits. Focus on goals that you control, rather than something that is controlled by many variables like weight loss.