There. I said it.
I’m not saying you are stupid for wanting to lose weight. I applaud any effort a person makes to improve their health. Notice the subtle distinction in what I said – improving health versus ‘losing weight’. Granted, health may not always be your primary motivator to lose weight and that’s okay too. Maybe you’re motivated because you want to look better in clothes, or be less self-conscious about that roll of flab around your midsection.
You want to lose weight? Great! So, why would I say, “Weight loss is stupid.”?
I guess there’s no simple answer to that question, hence I am writing this post to explain.
When we talk about losing ‘weight’, what we really mean is that we want to reduce fat on our body, right? Okay… So what? Well, losing ‘weight’ can also mean losing water weight and/or lean tissue (muscle). The latter being something I would think you would want to retain. More muscle burns more calories and keeps us strong. The problem is that when we lose weight we don’t really get to choose what the body burns for fuel. A reduction in calories causes the body to burn off stored resources (fat and lean tissue). Our hope is that it would go straight for the fat storage, but it is not quite that simple. Sure, there are things you can do to retain the muscle, but bear in mind that building muscle requires more calories, so you will be hungry after exercising.
From a health perspective, I often wonder why ‘weight’ is an indicator of wellbeing. Granted, when I weighed well over 400 pounds I was not in a healthy state. But it’s also possible to be both overweight and considered ‘healthy’, as much as it’s possible to be ‘normal’ weight and unhealthy. So what does weight tell us exactly? Having excess stored fat on our body can lead to a host of physical and metabolic issues. The weight itself puts stress on your body, your joints, back, etc. The fat, especially that in the belly area and internal fat surrounding your organs can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, and other co-morbidities.
So, if you want to avoid all these problems why wouldn’t you want to lose weight? Well, I’m not suggesting you don’t do anything about those health issues. What I am suggesting is a shift in your mind about how you approach it. Rather than focusing on losing weight, it may serve you better to focus on building new habits. After all, you don’t want to go through an entire effort of improving your health, just to stop when you’re ‘done’ and go back to your old habits.
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. – Henry Ford
Maybe it’s time for a different approach. The challenge with short-term efforts to improve you health is that they are short-termed solutions. Losing weight is not a once and done effort. If you want to sustain the benefits of the changes you are making you need to think long-term. And weight loss is tricky. I should know. I’ve struggled with that most of my adult life. And by ‘tricky’ I am referring to that point I made earlier on how it is hard to get the body to just lose fat when we go on a diet. For many people who go on a diet, they step on the scale and look for the results often not knowing what they are truly losing in terms of ‘weight’ (fat, water, and/or muscle?). Or maybe they gained weight, not realizing that all of the exercise they are doing is building muscle…
Yes, there are ways in which we can measure what the content of one’s weight loss might be, ensuring that we are targeting fat loss. But the average person does not have access to those tools. Most of us have that little square device that lays on the floor, which measures our gravitational pull to the earth (a.k.a. ‘weight’), beckoning us to step upon it so it can mock us. Hey, if we lived on the moon, we’d weigh much less! So if I’m 400 pounds here on Earth, I’d weigh 66.4 pounds on the moon and be considered very underweight by our standards! What’s the point? Well, despite whatever the scale said on Earth or on the moon, I’d still have the same health issues (other than weight-related physical issues on the moon I assume).
Maybe ‘stupid‘ is a strong word for describing a weight loss endeavor. After all, it was my desire to lose weight that lead to saving my own life. But the point of this whole post is to explain that, in my experience, learning to focus less on weight and more on building habits will serve you better in the long run. To me it seems futile to just focus on the scale as what it reports may not be what you are seeking in the end… A healthier and happier life!
How much would you weigh if you lived on the Moon?