We get it.
You want to be healthy.
And so you think, “I just need to lose X amount of pounds and then I’ll be as healthy as can be!”
Don’t get us wrong, losing weight can be a healthy and worthwhile pursuit. But, it can also backfire.
Usually, when people want to lose weight, there are three main possible reasons:
All of these reasons are legitimate. But, we’re going to show you why just losing weight alone may not help you reach your goals in each of these 3 situations.
No doubt, confidence is the primary reason most people want to lose weight. The exception is usually when someone is facing a health crisis due to being overweight.
Wanting to feel confident isn’t narcissistic or vain. In fact, a healthy sense of self-assurance is a vital part of a good life, and research has shown that confident (not arrogant) individuals experience better life outcomes both personally and professionally.
Put simply, people love being around confident people, and this helps you both in the boardroom and in the bedroom.
However, depending on your approach, you may find that your weight loss journey actually makes you feel less confident than you did before.
Compare these two different intentions for losing weight:
While these intentions are similar, they are also strikingly different. In the second example, the motivation is dissatisfaction while in the first example, the motivation is self-hatred.
Your intentions make all the difference in the game of losing and keeping weight off.
If you have unyielding negative emotions towards your body, it’s similar to a boiling kettle of water that is filled to the brim. One disturbance, one setback, and it could mean disaster.
In contrast, a sense of dissatisfaction, or wanting to improve your body, is like a slow cooker. Yes, you still need to be mindful of things (don’t leave the house for a week with the slow cooker on!) but overall, it’s a lot less likely that disaster will ensue.
Because the fact of the matter is: You WILL experience many setbacks on the journey towards your ideal body. You will go on vacations, eat too much and feel guilty. You will experience extremely difficult days and eat comfort food.
That’s fine. That’s OK. That’s part of the process. But, when you absolutely hate how you look, these minor bumps in the road will turn into major setbacks, as we often resort to eating more when we feel bad about ourselves, creating a cycle of self-hatred.
Here’s your action step: Each time you’re doing a healthy habit that will help you lose weight, tell yourself a mental story that acknowledges your current emotions while putting a positive spin on things.
Say to yourself, “I know that I don’t like the way I look right now. I accept that. But I’m going to do my best to be kind to myself along the path of improving my body because I am NOT my body image. I am a person who is completely OK no matter what I look like.”
Talking to yourself this way can be incredibly difficult at first. But with practice, self-compassion will help you feel more confident and comfortable with yourself than you could feel with dieting alone.
No doubt, losing weight can be a positive move for your health. However, weight alone isn’t the end all, be all, of a healthy body.
Consider that health has many dimensions, including:
“The researchers examined data on 43,265 participants enrolled in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study between 1979 and 2003...
The researchers categorized obese participants as “metabolically healthy” if, aside from their weight, they didn’t suffer from insulin resistance, diabetes, low levels of good cholesterol, high triglycerides and high blood pressure. Nearly half of the obese participants in the study qualified as metabolically fit.
Compared with obese people..., those who were obese but metabolically healthy had a 38% lower risk of early death from any cause. In fact, those who were fat but fit had no higher death risk than metabolically healthy normal weight participants.”
Here’s how you can take action on these points:
We’ve talked about this topic before, but it bears repeating:
Weight loss and fat loss are NOT the same things.
And, body composition (the ratio of your muscle to your fat tissue) is a much better measure of how good you’re going to look without clothes on than scale weight.
Let’s break this down.
Your body has both lean tissue and fatty tissue. Lean tissue includes bones, teeth, muscles, water - pretty much anything that isn’t fat.
Fatty tissue is, well, fat, both in your organs and in your skin. A certain amount of fat is necessary for your body to function optimally.
If you do some BS juice cleanse and you don’t eat food for a week, you’re going to lose water weight, fat and muscle as well.
So, while you are losing weight, your overall body composition - your ratio of fat to muscle - is going to be relatively unchanged.
This is why some people lose a ton of weight and look better, but also kind of look like smaller versions of their previous selves, instead of leaner, more attractive versions of their previous selves.
For example, look at the following picture:
The author states that in the photo on the right, she weighed 128 pounds while she weighed 125 pounds in the photo on the left.
Most people would agree that the body on the right looks more attractive than the body on the left.
Here’s how the author, Mal, explains the difference:
“In the beginning of my journey to lose 100 lbs I was only concerned with one thing: decreasing the number on the scale. I did this through cardiovascular exercise and counting calories. I was successful in dropping the weight but I wasn’t happy with my body. Even though I was smaller, my body shape looked the same and now I had loose skin. I wanted that ‘toned’ look so I began to research how I could achieve it.
I realized that in order to achieve that look, I needed to focus less on losing weight and more on losing fat. To do this I began strength training and tracking macronutrients.”
So, if our goal is to look good naked, feel good about ourselves and be healthy, we can see that just decreasing calories and hoping for the best won’t cut it.
Instead, we need to focus on losing fat, not weight, make sure we are exercising, and also remind ourselves that while we may not be happy with our current weight, hating ourselves will only make the process less likely to succeed.