Nix the Weight Loss Goals

I love the tradition of taking inventory at the beginning of the new year and setting goals to make this year better than ever! But I sure do cringe when I start hearing people setting goals for a specific amount of weight to lose - or even, to lose weight at all. 

Why? Because focusing on losing weight usually leads to poorer eating habits over the long term.  And focusing on losing weight can even cause you to gain weight over the long term.  Do I think that eating better can, and should, be one of your New Year's resolutions? Of course! Just please don't use your weight as a marker of success. Doing so will likely lead to trouble with your eating.

If you've put on some pounds over the holidays or over the past year or so, you may be rolling your eyes at my advice. Conventional wisdom says that if you've gained weight, you must focus on losing it to be healthy.  My years in practice as a nutrition counselor combined with my constant review of the scientific literature regarding weight loss have given me a very different opinion.  

The evidence tying higher weights to poor health is sketchy, at best. There is more of a correlation between weight change and poor health than there is between a high weight and poor health. Our bodies do best when in balance, which means a stable weight is what’s important. Nutritional markers such as:

·         steady weight

·         reliable and consistent meal patterns  

·         variety of food intake

are much better correlators to overall health. And don’t even get me going on BMI! If someone tells you that based on your height you are supposed to be a certain weight – tell them to take a hike! We are each unique. People come in all shapes and sizes. Much of it is determined by our genes. It is not our job to try to shape our body into a certain size mold. It is our job to live a lifestyle that gives our own natural mechanisms the ability to maintain our weight at our genetic predisposition.

And that is what good nutrition is all about. A lifestyle, a way of feeding yourself that promotes balance in all areas of your life and optimizes your health.  A rigid weight loss diet, or a ridiculous fad diet that eliminates foods of a certain color or a certain food group will only make you crazy. Counting calories or fat grams or points or macros is not something that will help you become balanced or healthy. Those strategies will ultimately make you ignore your own internal regulators (your body is the BEST calorie counter...given the chance) which will lead to unstable weight - and remember, that is unhealthy.  Trying to follow a set plan with lists of foods to eat and amounts will only make you cringe when asked to join friends at certain restaurants, or become anxious about what foods might be served at the next family gathering, or feel guilt, failure and shame when eating the forbidden foods of your diet.

So, please. Don’t even put yourself in that position. You have too much living to do this year to waste your time focusing on weight loss. Eating better – YES! Resolve to nourish yourself in the best way for YOU this year! There are hundreds of ways to eat better and feel better that do not involve dieting. I support you in your resolve to find your path to wellness – free from the oppression of a weight loss goal. And yes...I have ideas for those resolutions related to your eating...