I recently attended the Obesity Summit in Vancouver, and although we were fed only salad and water for four days, a serious scientific breakthrough was discussed: healthy people come in all shapes and sizes!
What a relief!
Although this fact seems obvious, it has taken health professionals and government a long time to admit those words in public. We are finally recognizing that we need a new model for healthy body image, eating and lifelong fitness that is not solely focused on weight.
Our obsession with weight loss has had many harmful effects: generations of women who dislike their bodies (and a growing number of men as well), a prevailing culture of weight bias, unhealthy weight-cycling and yo-yo dieting, a growing number of eating disorders in our children and youth… the list goes on.
Ironically, despite being told that we need to lose weight, as a society, we are gaining weight and are less active.
The truth is that we have not found an effective way to lose large amounts of weight permanently.
There is something about our genetic predisposition and weight regulatory system that limits many people’s ability to have a BMI between 20 and 25. While improvements in a person’s diet and exercise patterns will likely improve health- blood pressure, blood sugars, cholesterol, body esteem, mental health – it may not result in weight loss and almost definitely will not transform their body into the one they want.
The problem with focusing on weight loss as an outcome is that when a person does all the “right” things and still does not get their promised reward (weight loss), they get discouraged and often stop the healthy behaviors.
The new movement is health at every size – eating nutritious foods to satisfy hunger and finding physical activities that you enjoy.
Rather than setting unrealistic weight loss goals, try setting simple process goals, such as, “I will go for a walk after supper four times a week.”
Remember that even if you don’t lose any weight, eating nutritious foods and regular exercise are good for your physical and mental health and will reduce your risk of chronic disease.
-Serena Caner is a registered dietician who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.