Weight loss. If there is one issue that our society spends way too much time researching, it is this one. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight, of course—if it helps you reach your health goals and benefits your overall wellbeing, that’s amazing! Go for it! I will be cheering you on! But the reality is that most of the information about weight loss that exists on the internet, in magazines, and in advertising is not helpful. In fact, it can actually be harmful.
For too long, people have assumed that losing weight equates to improving health. But here’s the thing: this “lose weight = become healthy” equation is not accurate. Firstly, this equation works to glamorize and glorify one specific body type. More specifically, it leads to this assumption that “skinny = healthy”, which is absolutely not true.
In the best cases, this assumption that “skinny = healthy” creates disappointment, frustration, and discouragement; often, as people strive to lose weight, they come to the realization that they are (a) not able to lose weight as quickly/permanently as they want to, and/or (b) not any healthier after all their efforts because they neglected other areas of their lives. In the worst cases, this false equation leads to an obsession with physical appearance, one that often results in dangerous conditions like eating disorders, which have become more and more prevalent in our appearance-focused world.
Excuse the irony, but there must be a healthier way to talk about weight loss. So in this article, I want to go over 9 must-know facts about weight loss. Ultimately, I want to put this discussion in context by looking beyond weight loss and refusing to treat it as a one-size-fits-all solution.
I’ve compiled my own personal list of 9 must-know facts about weight loss that I feel are uniquely important, but this list is by no means exhaustive. So feel free to comment in the section below with any additional information that you would like to share!
And now, without further ado, I present you with my 9 must-know facts about weight loss! Let’s get started!
Fact #1: Healthy does not equal skinny. Health is about way more than weight.
Our culture’s obsession with weight loss (and even weight gain) is misleading. If you rely on magazines and television shows for the majority of your healthcare information, you will end up believing that your weight is the most important factor—if not the only factor—that you need to consider when evaluating your overall health and wellbeing.
The reality is, however, that there are many overweight individuals who are metabolically healthy. On the flip side, there are many people who are “normal” weight (whatever that means…) or underweight who have the same metabolic problems associated with obesity. Don’t believe me? Check here and here to look at the science behinds these facts.
Now, there are reasons to believe that the location of fat build-up is somewhat important. For example, a build-up of fat in the abdominal cavity is linked to certain metabolic problems. Other fat build-ups under the skin seem to be more of an appearance concern rather than a health concern.
So yes, by all means: if you struggle with a build-up of fat in your abdominal and belly areas, you can add weight loss as a health goal you wish to attain. However, weight loss is not the ultimate marker of overall health.
So don’t let the number on the scale control you—it does not define you, and it certainly does not define your health. Evaluating your health based on your weight is counterproductive.
If you want to get an accurate understanding of the state of your health, speak to a professional. This will get you much better results than simply adopting an ultra restrictive diet that might help with weight loss but does nothing to address the underlying health issues you may be facing.
Fact #2: Speaking of diets, there is no diet that will be beneficial for everyone.
Imagine this conversation:
Person #1: “Hey everyone! I just wanted to let you know that I’m on a gluten-free diet.”
Person #2: “Wow, me too! Well, I’m on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet, so I guess you could say I’m a bit more serious.”
Person #3: “Oh, well, I’ve taken the moral road and gone vegetarian. I mean, have you even seen Food Inc.?”
Person #4: “I’m right with you! I mean, I’m vegan, so I’ve gone that extra mile. But don’t worry—you’re almost there!
I’m not sure about you, but I don’t even need to imagine this conversation. I see it play out in my day-to-day life quite frequently. Atkins diet. Elimination diet. Paleo diet. Sometimes it’s hard just to keep up with the ever-expanding list of diets that people have come up with!
Now, I’m well aware of the fact that most people who start any given diet do so because they are convinced that it will work. Inevitably, it gets to the point where they begin telling other people to try the diet as well.
Here’s the thing: we were all created with important differences that make us unique. We have differences in genetics, body types, hormone levels, you name it! Keeping this in mind, it is impossible for any one diet to be beneficial to everybody.
For some people, a low-carb, low-fat diet is most beneficial. For others, certain foods must be avoided due to sensitivities or health conditions, such as Celiac disease. So what works for one person will not necessarily work for the next person.
If you want to figure out which diet works best for you, speak to a dietician, a nutritionist, or a naturopath. They will be able to help you make the appropriate adjustments that you will need to make in order to get the best results.
Fact #3: High-carb diets are not designed for people with high blood sugar and/or Type-2 Diabetes.
Building off of the point above, when we adopt the assumption that everyone’s body will work the same way and will therefore respond identically to a specific diet, we end up having situations where people’s health is actually harmed.
For instance, people have been told for years that it is beneficial to eat a low-fat diet where carbs make up 50-60% of the calories.
However, people with Type-2 Diabetes are resistant to insulin, and consuming carbs raises their blood sugar levels. So if anyone would benefit from a low-carb diet, it is someone struggling with diabetes.
In fact, one study found that adopting a low-carb, ketogenic diet allowed 81% of the diabetic participants to lower or eliminate their medication.
All of that to say: don’t follow diet fads. Speak to a healthcare professional in order to determine which diet(s) will yield the best health results for you!
Fact #4: Weight loss supplements are almost always ineffective.
There are a myriad of weight loss products available to us, and in our society, it is easy to gravitate towards the “quick-fix” options that require the least amount of systemic lifestyle change.
However, the truth is that there is no magic supplement that will make you lose weight. And even if there was, this wouldn’t necessarily help your health overall!
Now, there are essential oils that can help you bring balance to your metabolic system. For example, Slim & Sassy (known as Smart & Sassy in Canada) is a blend of essential oils that helps curb your cravings, which in the long-run may help with weight loss. However, this essential oil blend is just one of many things that will help you. It isn’t meant to work in isolation.
So remember: if you want to see improvements in your overall health and wellbeing, you need to make changes in multiple areas of your life, not just weight loss!
Fact #5: Junk food can be addictive, so prepare yourself!
While this feels like common sense, I want to give you all forewarning: eliminating junk food from your diet is hard work!
Research shows that our bodies react to many foods the way that an addict’s brain reacts to drugs. Certain foods play off of our brain’s pleasure system, meaning that our brains reward us by flooding our system with dopamine whenever we eat those foods. This is why many people have difficulties parting with junk food.
The good news is that, the longer you go without junk food, the easier it is. And actually, over time, the cravings will stop and your food preferences will adapt to reflect a healthier diet.
Fact #6: You shouldn’t trust what you read on food packages.
As people have become increasingly aware of the need to have a healthy diet, food manufacturers and marketing professionals have found a way to sell unhealthy foods to healthy people. How?
Simple: lie. Or rather, stretch the truth… a lot.
Nowadays, it seems as though everything is made of “whole grain”. And have you noticed that the amount of “low fat” and “reduced sodium” products in the grocery store has increased exponentially?
Guess what: that isn’t because big corporations have suddenly had a change of heart and seen the value of encouraging healthy eating habits. Rather, this is because food producers still want to make money, and they’d rather change their packaging than change their product. Hence, the sudden emergence of “whole grain” Lucky Charms, chocolate Cheerios, and Reese’s puffs.
Moral of the story: don’t trust the health claims on food packaging. (Especially if common sense tells you that the food is full of sugar and lacking any nutritional value, whether it’s “whole grain” or not.)
Fact #7: On that note, just because a food item is labeled “organic” or “gluten-free”, does not make it healthy.
While shopping for organic and/or gluten-free food is one of the biggest bandwagons of the 21st Century, it is a fad that you should definitely opt-out of!
Firstly, all manner of unhealthy foods can be made from “organic” ingredients. Just because you have an “organic” chocolate cake does not automatically make it a “healthy” chocolate cake.
Secondly, in the case of gluten-free foods, the ingredients are often worse than their gluten-filled counterparts. For example, gluten-free foods are disproportionately made with corn or rice, which are not exactly the golden standard of health to aspire to. Additionally, gluten-free foods are often higher on the glycemic scale.
So the next time you go to grab that organic, gluten-free cupcake mix off the shelf at the grocery store, just remember that those labels means nothing. As I tell my daughter: organic sugar is still sugar.
Fact #8: We cannot blame age-old foods for 21st Century health challenges.
It’s always interesting to hear what health authorities are saying and follow the ways that they are contradicting themselves. One minute, milk is the best thing in the world! The next minute, it will lead to paralysis!
I exaggerate, but the principle is still true: for some reason, health authorities have begun blaming age-old foods like eggs and red meat for the health problems that we see emerging in our society. But is the issue really the foods themselves?
Considering the fact that health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease didn’t start to significantly increase until relatively recently in human history, it is illogical to blame foods that have been consumed by humans for millennia without any serious consequence.
Instead of saying that all red meats and all eggs are horrible for human health, it seems more logical to examine the different changes that humans have made to the process of food production. Once we begin to look more closely, we will see that we have altered the quality of our food by using “modern-day technologies” such as pesticides and genetic modification.
Additionally, we have abandoned eating natural foods in favour of manufacturing our own processed products, things like cereals, granola bars, cookies, pizza pockets, and chocolate bars. In light of the fact that these processed foods include many synthetic ingredients, as well as incorporate high amounts of sugar, salt, and trans fats, it seems logical to suspect these newer food products for the emergence of systemic health issues.
So ultimately, if you want to adjust your eating habits in order to improve your health, don’t start by eliminating old foods like squashes, cucumbers, and beans. Realistically, the overabundance of potato chips in your diet is likely much more concerning that the overabundance of yams.
Fact #9: If you want to change your health, you need to change your lifestyle.
I know, I know. It’s a bit anticlimactic, considering that it is the last of the 9 must-know facts about weight loss that I have chosen to share with you today.
But the reality is that, even though this is a saying that we have heard time and time again, we’ve heard it so often because it is true!
Too often, we start a diet, lose weight, and then stop the diet because hey, we did it! And then, after a couple of months and more than a couple two-bite brownies, we’re back where we started. Why does this happen? Because just because you lose weight, doesn’t mean it will stay off. And just because you lose weight, doesn’t mean you are healthy.
News flash: no matter how many diets you go on, you will never truly be at the peak of your health until you have made vitally important adjustments to your lifestyle.
These adjustments will look different from person to person. For some of you, daily physical exercise is what your body needs. For others, you need to change your eating habits. Maybe some of you are simply dehydrated and you need to drink more water on a daily basis.
Regardless of what your situation is, the only way for you to reach your health goals—including weight loss—is for you to change your lifestyle.
Lets Get Healthy!
So what are you waiting for? Don’t let magazine ads or marketing tactics dictate the trajectory of your health. Go see a dietician or a nutritionist! Talk to your naturopath or your doctor! And remember these 9 facts as you go about your day-to-day life.
Stay happy and healthy, everyone!
Link #1: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr013.pdf
Link #2: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/34/8/1617.short
Link #3: http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/23-studies-on-low-carb-and-low-fat-diets#section1
Link #4: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1325029/