Our experience has shown us that to eventually get to your natural healthy weight, you need to loosen up on yourself and treat your body with respect.
My work with patients around weight began as a research dietitian – over a period of about seven years I helped participants in clinical trials make lifestyle changes to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and body weight. While we were telling people that we were helping them change their lifestyle (not diet), most approached food and exercise from a dieting mindset and pounds lost was the number one indicator of success. The women that I worked with never seemed satisfied with the amount of weight they lost, it was never enough. They still didn’t like the size of their belly or the cellulite on their thighs. Even when participants met their ‘goal weight,’ they were still unhappy and often said, “if I could just lose another 10 pounds, then I’d be happy.”
People with eating disorders also struggle with the number on the scale. The ED tells them that if they were XXX pounds, life would be better, and when they restrict and purge to get down to that weight, the target moves yet again. While patients may be aware of this, they still keep chasing the dream. I recently heard someone say that going on a diet is like buying a lottery ticket. “When I lose weight, I’m going to _______.”
Geneen Roth, in her book Women, Food and God says “Weight loss does not make people happy. Or peaceful. Or content. Being thin does not address the emptiness that has no shape or weight or name. Even in a wildly successful diet is a colossal failure because inside the new body is the same sinking heart. Spiritual hunger can never be solved on the physical level.”
Think about the weight you were at when you started dieting. What do you think of that body size today? Chances are that many of you see a body size/weight that is more acceptable to you today. You might discover that nothing really was wrong with your body when you started dieting.
Why is it that many women believe that the most ‘ideal’ weight is between 100-125 pounds, regardless of age, height, muscle mass and bone structure. No one can really say what a specific ideal weight is for every body. In fact, makers of the 1990 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans got rid of an important word when recommending body weights for Americans: ideal. They threw out the recommendation that Americans reach or maintain an ideal weight because no one knows exactly what that number is! (Intuitive Eating, Tribole & Resch)
A natural healthy weight is the weight your body will maintain with normal eating and normal exercise. Over years of dieting, people rarely have a normal, healthy relationship with food. And thanks to shows like The Biggest Loser, we have ridiculous ideas of the amount and type of physical activity needed to lose and maintain weight. Working out six to eight hours a day is not healthy, it is obsessive.
One way to know if you are pursuing a healthier body in a compassionate way is to ask yourself these questions:
- How long can I continue to live this way?
- What price am I paying?
- Am I really taking care of myself?
- Am I happy?
- Do I feel good?
Our experience has shown us that to eventually get to your natural healthy weight, you need to loosen up on yourself and treat your body with respect. At our next Body Trust Network on August 6, we’ll explore how to make peace with your body and accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect realistically to squeeze into a size six, it is equally futile to have a similar experience about body size. We’ll discuss how to respect your body so you can feel better about who you are. Because when you feel better about who you are, it is much easier to meet your body’s basic needs, which will lead you toward your natural, healthy weight.
“The scale can only give you a numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity. That’s it. It cannot measure beauty, talent, purpose, life force, possibility, strength, or love. Don’t give the scale more power than it has earned. Get off the scale and live your life. You are beautiful!” – NEDA