What would happen if you stopped trying to lose weight?
Have you ever thought that maybe you’re trying too hard?
Let me clarify what I DON’T mean by this article. If you are at an unhealthy weight that is affecting your health and overall wellbeing, I am not saying that you should continue on that same trajectory. Achieving a more optimal weight for you may improve your health.
What I am saying is this: what if you stopped it with the calorie counting, the weighing, the guilt, the diets, the restriction. What if you started listening to your body’s hunger cues, chose quality over calories, and weighed yourself once in a while (or not at all). What would happen if you gave yourself the permission to eat a chocolate bar without obsessing and feeling guilty about it? What if you got over it and realized that chocolate bars are part of a healthy, well-varied diet too? And how about if you ate lots of vegetables because you wanted to instead of because you felt obligated and forced to?
I believe that your natural body weight is regulated and pre-determined by your body using a variety of mechanisms. Consume too few calories, and your body secretes hormones to increase your desire to eat. Ever crave food while you’re dieting? Exactly. So what would happen if you stopped trying and started listening…to your body? You’ll need to trust yourself, which is a huge step for most people. When you stop trying to bully your body into doing what you want it to do and be what you (or society, or your mother) wants it to be, it might just lead you in the right direction anyhow.
I’m going to break this down for you.
Here’s why you should stop trying so hard to lose weight:
You’re messing up your hunger cues.
Ever track your calories, points, or anything else? Did you notice that instead of listening to whether you were really hungry, you focused more on the numbers that you were tracking? On one hand, tracking can be eye-opening. On the other, it can cause people to be hyper-focused on how many calories/points they have left in the day (or how much they’ve eaten), which in turn can take the focus away from where it should really be: how you actually feel before and after eating. Are you hungry? Are you truly full?
You’re distracting yourself from what’s important.
I’ve had clients who come to me after trying to lose weight unsuccessfully for many years using diets and diet mentality. These clients are so focused on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods and eating behaviors that they’ve got zero clues as to what their bodies actually need: a diet that’s rich in variety that includes all foods and adequate nourishment. They’re also missing what’s perhaps the most important part of life – enjoyment. Going out with friends and actually having fun, having relaxed family meals and excursions, and savoring the beauty of food. This is happening because their focus is where it shouldn’t be: on how guilty they feel about being ‘bad’ with their diets. Guilt and shame have no place in nutrition. They stop us from nourishing our bodies and souls, and may negatively affect our health.
You’re burning yourself out.
Now that it’s been proven that overdoing it with exercise doesn’t help with weight loss like we previously thought (marathon sessions on the elliptical, remember those?), why in the world are you killing yourself at the gym? Being active is amazing and has a multitude of benefits, and it does have a role with maintaining a healthy weight. But overtraining – slogging away for hours for the purpose of dropping pounds is likely to make you an exhausted, burned out ball of crankiness. Oh, and it can also make you hungry. Like, hungry enough to overeat. I speak from experience, having GAINED weight while training for a marathon, and knowing many people who have done the same. Move your body doing stuff you like, and stop it with the overtraining.
Calories are not created equal.
No matter how many calories that app or equation tells you that you need, it’s probably at least a few hundred calories off base.
Every body is different, and calorie requirements are a result of multiple things like your individual metabolism, muscle mass, activity level, and anthropometrics. There are likely factors we haven’t even considered that influence caloric requirements. And calorie requirements aren’t all that matter; quality and type of food do, too. The 160 calories in a can of Coke and 160 calories of chickpeas are metabolized differently by your body, which is why calories aren’t as equal as we once thought they were. Food that is ultra-processed is far easier for your body to absorb, because your body doesn’t have to work so hard to break it down. So if you’re dieting and think it’s okay to eat 1500 calories of Thinsations Oreos because your body will treat those calories the same as any other food, you’re wrong. This is why, while I think it’s important to know relative calorie values of foods, I do discourage counting calories. Instead, eat mostly whole foods that you enjoy, and ditch the ultra processed ‘diet’ food and the calorie trackers.
You are not a number.
The scale tells you absolutely nothing about who you are as a person. It doesn’t determine your worth as a human being, it doesn’t love or hate you, and it doesn’t understand how many good things you’ve done in your life. Yes, numbers can be relevant to our health. And yes, it’s important to be aware of them. But letting those numbers have more power than you? Not okay. Losing weight doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to be any happier, and it certainly doesn’t make you a different person. You think you’re in control, but you’re actually letting the scale control YOU.
You’re going to have far more control when you can wrest it from the numbers and relax into living your life for YOU.
If you can’t wrap your head around this sort of thinking, maybe it’s time to give your scale away.
Focus on health, moving your body, and feeding it right.
Focus on respecting yourself and your body’s needs, both physical and psychological.
Trust your body, even if you feel as though you never have been able to and you’re afraid of losing control.
Focus on establishing healthy habits, and your weight will likely fall where it should be.