I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I get sad when I hear women and men talking about weight loss. It’s not because I think weight loss itself is inherently a problem. It's because the way we look at weight loss - as though it is our life's purpose or the only path to happiness - has become a cultural obsession. I also believe 99.99 percent of people have bought into a diet mentality that is harmful, and never works.
Imagine that you were constantly hearing people talk about their deep desire and effort to save money. Then you heard them talking about spending, refusing to open up their bank statements and look at them, and often you heard them talking about opening up high-interest-rate credit cards.
Wouldn’t you want to shake them and scream – STOP?
Well, that’s how I feel about diets, and the commonly accepted path people take when they want to lose weight. The old approach is not only not working, but also its actually contributing to the problem.
Here are five commonly held beliefs about weight-loss that I hear all too often.
Not only do diets not work with regards to creating a path to sustained weight management, but they are harmful to your overall goals. I hope these helps you to rethink the way you or your loved ones are approaching weight loss and health so that you can really get what you are desiring, and not just more of the same old thing.
- I need to lose weight and then I will be happy. This belief is not only false, but it is backward. Yes, you will be happy when you lose weight, I get that. But it doesn’t work in that order. It’s the other way around.The truth is that you will start to heal your relationship with food and maintain permanent weight loss when you are truly happy. When you focus on your happiness first and foremost, weight loss is no longer tedious and difficult – the way dieting feels. You will notice your desire to emotionally eat decreases when your life is balanced and you are deeply fulfilled. You must focus on being happy first, and let weight loss be an effect of that, not the other way around.
- I just need to try harder and then I’ll lose the weight and fix this problem. Again, this belief is false and backwards. Trying too hard (what I call “efforting”), is not going to help you maintain a healthy weight long term. You can lose weight in a short period of time this way, but it never ever lasts. This is what leads to yo-yo dieting. The truth is that allowing, instead of forcing, is a more powerful force when it comes to long-term permanent weight loss. Allow yourself to reconnect to your body’s hunger and fullness signals. Allow yourself to be mindful of what your body is craving and what you want to eat and why. Allow yourself to learn about your habits, bad and good, so that you can make a mindful choice about how to eat healthier in the future. Forcing the process only leads to burnout and exhaustion. This is why these really extreme diets don’t last. Very few of us can take that kind of forced exertion for very long. It is like swimming up stream. You don’t have to push so hard. You can relax into this process and allow yourself to begin to reconnect with your own wisdom. If you do this, you will have the energy and the insight to make this a lifestyle, and not just a short-term effort.
- Somewhere out there someone has a diet or a book that has the answer I need to lose weight. Diet and nutrition books are everywhere. They are also a dime a dozen and for every book that tells you one thing, there are 10 that will tell you the opposite. This leads to mass confusion and chaos if you are looking to the outside for the answers you seek. You can use the wisdom you find outside yourself as guidance, but the truth is, only you have the answer you are seeking. I promise this is true. Only you know the exact recipe that will give you the balance that your mind, body, and spirit seek at this moment in time. You will always be the only person who is ever going to know what you need. Paying attention to your needs, your hunger, your body’s signals, and your health is vital in order for you to read the signs and interpret the meaning as it translates into your nutritional needs. You are walking around with the perfect “diet solution” right now, so skip the trip to Barnes and Noble and start paying attention to your thoughts, your beliefs, your body and your hunger.
- I can do this on my own (DIY) – asking for help means I am weak. How many times have you tried to lose weight only to gain it back? How much time, money, and effort have you invested in your efforts to get healthy and stay healthy? The truth is, I don’t think we are meant to do much of anything alone. I believe that we are tribal, communal and relational beings. I think it is just in our make-up – probably in our DNA (just a guess). I find when people try to do things in isolation, they have limited power. When people do things in a group, they obtain the exponential power of the number of people in the group they are in. It’s a “two minds are better than one” type of effect. Asking for help is not weak, it is strong. It is choosing the power of community over the less powerful force of isolation. That is just smart. Being vulnerable in our society isn’t easy, I get that. We live in a world that is based on a lot of crappy and broken beliefs, and “asking for help is weak” is an example of one of those broken mindsets. Asking for help is courageous, it is smart, and ultimately, it will assist you in getting to your goal sooner.
- Weight Loss is a one-time thing. This is not a one-and-done thing. Anyone who believes that they are just going to lose weight and then everything will be “fixed” is fooling himself or herself. It’s like believing that if you just clean your house from top to bottom “this one time” then you will forever live in a pristine place and nothing will ever have to be done again. While that would be glorious, anyone who cleans his or her house knows that is not true. That is why being a clean and orderly person is a lifestyle, rather than an event. It is the same with truly learning to take care of our bodies - which is a better goal than weight loss any day. It’s not an event. It is a lifestyle. It is about living in alignment with your needs and connected to what works for you. It is about managing balance, which is never a fixed point. It is about commitment on a daily, sometimes, hourly level. This is why I believe it is about reconnecting with yourself.
Unlike house-cleaning, this process can be, and is, fun. It isn’t about changing yourself. It is about reconnecting to yourself and your needs. It’s really just life, but a life lived intentionally and with oodles of self-care and compassion.