Updated: Apr 9
We've All Been There
As women, everywhere we turn, we bump up against the expectation that no matter who we are, what our background is, or what we look like, weight loss should be one of our personal goals.
Ask us about our goals and notice how quick we are to say, "I need to lose weight!" It's as if we're programmed to think that weight loss is the only option. In today's thin obsessed world, it's important to challenge these beliefs and avoid harmful weight loss tactics that pose a risk to our long-term health and well-being.
First, reconsider weight loss as goal at. You might think you need to lose weight, but is that really true? Determining when intentional weight loss makes sense, and when it doesn't, can protect you from harmful social pressure to risk your health in the name of "body goals."
Let's start with when to reconsider weight loss as a goal.
WHEN TO RECONSIDER WEIGHT LOSS AS A GOAL
Even if you're convinced that you need to lose weight, it's worth it to check in with that belief from time to time.
For one thing, weight loss is the by-product an intentional disruption to the body's natural equilibrium and can be uncomfortable for some. Physical sensations of hunger, thoughts of food scarcity, and feelings of deprivation are too difficult for some to experience, and may trigger episodes of binge eating. In this case, weight loss may need to take a backseat to building a healthy relationship with food and strengthening your emotional regulation skills.
Disappointment with the changes to how your body looks and feels, or how others respond to your changing appearance can trigger a level of unease that causes some people to relapse and re-gain any weight they lost. It might be worth it to practice self-compassion and create a new narrative about your body first, then decide if you weight loss is really necessary.
To lose weight, and keep it off, some permanent changes to your eating and exercise habits will be required. Making changes that last takes time and patience and might mean giving up things you enjoy. It also requires sufficient mental bandwidth to learn new skills while keeping with up current responsibilities. If you lack the time, mental energy, or desire to change, it may be worth it to clarify what you are, and are not, willing to change first.
On the other hand, change is essential to personal growth. Staying stuck in the same old rut forever isn't natural, or healthy. It could be that you need to make changes for the better. You might be ready to discover new things about yourself. Perhaps you have a deep desire for change and you believe that you can do it.
You might ask yourself:
Do I feel proud of my eating habits, or are there things I'd like to change?
Do I have a healthy relationship with food and my body, or could it be better?
Why do I really want to lose weight? What will it do for me in the long-run?
What will happen if I do nothing, and maintain the status-quo?
Do I feel in control of my habits and able to maintain new ones for a long time?
Would making changes to my lifestyle bring me a greater
happiness, contentment, or life satisfaction?
Your answers will help you determine if you are ready, willing, and able to make the necessary changes to lose weight and keep it off, and whether those changes will be better, or worse, in the long run.
WHEN WEIGHT LOSS MAKES SENSE
1) When It Improves Well-being
When intentional weight loss results from healthy lifestyle change, there's generally a benefit to the overall quality of life.
Imagine the following scenarios:
One woman's past attempts at dieting have failed, leading to feelings of guilt, shame, and relapse with unhealthy habits. When she finally ended that cycle and stuck with her new habits, she noticed a boost in her self-esteem that helped her feel more confident at work and socially.
Another woman was forced her to move away from friends and family. Feeling alone and isolated, she started eating for relief, stopped her workouts, and gained weight. Eventually she decided that enough was enough and reached out for help. After strengthening her coping skills she was able to reduce stress and felt clear headed enough to tackle her emotional eating problem and get back to her old workouts. Now she feels more resilient than ever and confident that she can face life's trials without relapsing.
When weight loss is approached from a place of well-being, rather than from a place of shame, envy, or societal pressure, it can have a lasting, positive effect.
2) When There is a Medical Need
Preventable diseases like Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and certain cancers are known to be correlated with obesity. That doesn't mean that being in a larger body causes these conditions, but it does mean that there is a strong relationship between BMI and the risk of developing a serious health problem that could shorten your lifespan.
In a case where a Doctor has indicated a medical need, it's important to carefully consider the recommendations for medical care and lifestyle changes that need to be implemented to reduce the risk of disease and keep you healthy now and for years to come.
But what about those times when we're basically healthy and not dealing with any mental or emotional distress because of our weight.
Is it wrong to pursue weight loss purely for aesthetic reasons?
3) When You Want to Look "Good"
Let's just get this out of the way. Women are allowed to pursue weight loss simply because they want to, and they don't owe anyone an explanation for it.
If you want to actively pursue weight loss purely for aesthetic reasons, and doing so fully fits your value system, have at it!
Many women have discovered that putting their body to the test in the gym builds confidence, courage, resilience, and mental toughness. The results make them feel good about themselves, and they wouldn't change it for anything. Feeling confident, being the best version of yourself, and living a life you love is healthy.
A WORD OF CAUTION, AND HOPE
Whether you choose to include weight loss as one of your goals or not, be advised that there is a danger in going to extremes of either not caring at all, or caring too much.
Despite looking "fit," some women may exercise to the point of physical injury, declining athletic performance, heart problems, and chronic pain and stress.
In an attempt to be a "perfect eater," disordered eating patterns can emerge that lead to an unrelenting pursuit of thinness that crowds out other meaningful life priorities. Anorexia, for example, can cause bone and hair loss, infertility, heart failure, and even death.
Once a weight loss goal has been reached, many women still have feelings of self-loathing, jealousy, or feeling insecure about themselves. This can lead to relationship problems, anxiety, depression, and other problems that may require treatment.
These consequences can be avoided by putting societal pressure aside, being realistic about our genetics and limitations, and emphasizing long-term, sustainable lifestyle habits that add to your quality of life.
My hope is that before you jump on the weight loss bandwagon you'll take the time to connect with your values and bring your total health into the picture.
It is possible to lose weight and keep it off without losing yourself along the way. I can help.