It’s Okay to Want to Lose Weight: An RD’s Perspective on Weight Loss
Note: This blog describes my position on weight loss for people who do not have and have never had disordered eating or eating disorders.
I love the concept of body-positivity. I think it’s fantastic that our culture is becoming more inclusive. Every body is beautiful. Every single one.
I don’t think that people in larger bodies should be shamed or made to feel bad about their size. I believe that they should be able to rock the same clothes as people who wear a size 4; that they deserve the same caliber of medical care as smaller-sized individuals; that it’s disgusting when fat people are stared at, commented to, and treated like second-class citizens. That should never happen.
I also hate diet culture. There’s a systemic issue in our society that we glorify restrictive diets, weight loss, and thinness, and portray fatness as flawed, lazy, and unintelligent.
That is so very wrong.
But I also believe that it’s okay to want to lose weight.
And I don’t believe for one second that ‘diet culture’ has to be a part of that.
Before I go any further, I want to draw the distinction between natural body size and the size you are because you haven’t been nourishing yourself properly.
It’s physically and emotionally harmful to strive for an unrealistic weight that’s outside of your natural size, and there’s no shortage of people out there with unrealistic weight goals. But that’s not what this article is about. It’s about when a person has gained weight and wants to lose that weight. Realistically. Healthily. With a dietitian’s guidance.
There is a huge trend inside and outside of our profession that promotes Intuitive Eating, a tenet of which is that intentional weight loss is harmful and a submission to diet culture. IE has some valuable concepts that I use with clients. and while it may help some people, it doesn’t work for everyone.
Some people need more structure. Some people aren’t comfortable with the tenets of IE. I also think IE can be rigid in its permissiveness. Eat what you crave, but don’t you dare desire weight loss. Do this, but never do that. You can’t love and respect your body and still want to lose weight.
I don’t agree.
There’s a middle ground somewhere between IE and restrictive diets, and I think I tread it. Yes, I have and will continue to call out shitty, harmful diets and diet culture. But some people aren’t interested in those things. They just want to lose weight.
I believe that wanting to lose weight isn’t shameful or wrong. Different people want different things, and that’s natural. Any eating plan that declares itself ‘the answer’ to everyone’s eating issues is obviously a problem. You can’t be everything to everyone. Sorry.
A few weeks back, an RD on Twitter who practices IE told me that all motivation for intentional weight loss falls under three categories:
A desire for control
A desire for acceptance
A desire for punishment
When I asked the same dietitian what she’d do if she gained 300 pounds, she didn’t have an answer for me.
And while those beliefs might have been uniquely hers, there’s a feeling among IE followers that people who want weight loss simply need to ‘address their barriers’ to figure out why they want to lose weight and can’t just live happily in their bodies.
But sometimes it’s not about someone’s ‘barriers to body acceptance.’ Sometimes it’s about ‘my jeans feel tight and I’m out of breath and I want to lose weight.’
And that’s okay.
Beauty standards in our society extend beyond weight. How many of us get Botox? Dye our hair? Whiten our teeth? Isn’t that the same thing? Are those wrong, too?
Most RDs are privileged, myself included: young, slim, white, and presumably healthy. And while I’m sure we all empathize with their clients, it’s hard to overstate our position of privilege. And even when we recognize our privilege, how many of us against weight loss have ever been obese or have suffered from obesity-related conditions?
People need a choice of treatments or they’ll resort to unqualified ‘nutritionists’ and woo woo craziness to get the results they want. Some people like to weigh themselves. Some like to count things. Some want to ignore weight altogether. Fine.
Although some believe that weight and health aren’t linked, I firmly believe that they are. Sure, the research studies may not be able to pinpoint weight as a cause for disease, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Yes, you can be fat – or thin – and at the same time be metabolically healthy. But that’s not always the case.
If someone with realistic expectations wants to lose weight because they’ve gained pounds and don’t like the way they look and feel, why would I ever tell them they’re wrong for wanting that?
I believe that everyone has the right to decide what size body they want to live in. People who want to lose weight need to be listened to, not saved from themselves.
In appropriate cases, weight loss can be achieved safely and with minimal disruption to your life.
I’ve been there. Having eaten to the point where I was at a size that is officially categorized as overweight, I can tell you that it didn’t feel good. I was tired. I didn’t have endurance to do the things I liked to do. I certainly wasn’t metabolically healthy.
And you know what? I didn’t like the way I looked. Why is that a bad thing? Am I a horrible person because I hate the feeling of when my jeans don’t fit me anymore?
I changed my diet. I started working out. And yes, I lost weight. Intentionally.
For the long term. And here I am today.
I’m a dietitian. I help people lose weight.
I don’t put people on diets. I never weigh people. A huge part of my treatment is uncovering the underlying, often complex psychological causes of their overeating and ensuring they get counselling for those.
And let it be known that for not one fucking second do I believe that every desire for weight loss comes from a negative place of control, acceptance, or punishment.
As dietitians, it’s our right to practice in a way that we see fit. We all have the best intentions for our clients. This is my way, and I’ll continue to support my clients to help them achieve their goals and live their best life.