Another month, another weigh-in. I wasn’t expecting much this month because I went on holiday, and I figured I couldn’t possibly have fun and lose weight at the same time.
Turns out you can, because I am down another 6kg.
I have lost 13kg in total so far, which is just over 2 stone. That’s essentially 200 sausages for those who are keeping count.
And I feel a lot better for it.
But I’m still not celebrating.
Why I don’t celebrate weight loss
It’s not because I am dissatisfied with the number. Because trust me, I am more than satisfied!
It’s not because I still have a way to go to reach my “ideal weight” and it’s too early to celebrate either.
Nothing like that.
I’m not celebrating, because I’ve stopped caring about weight loss.
Wait, isn’t this a weight loss blog?
Over the last 2 months, I have been trying to figure out exactly what I am trying to achieve here. And that keeps changing. When I started out, the tagline to my website was “weight loss the hard way”. It was also the title to my first blog post.
I had turned 40, weighed myself for the first time in ages, panicked and decided to do something about it. That was the beginning of my journey, and my one and only goal was to lose weight. By losing weight I would improve my health and reduce my risk of dying from COVID.
But then what?
What happens once I reach my target weight?
What is my target weight anyway?
A different kind of blog
I’m still working my way through these questions. I have tried to find the answers by doing the research and listening to a lot of different people with very different opinions. I figure the truth must lie somewhere in the middle – a balance of all the extremes.
Some people argue that you can be healthy at any size. Others point out that the evidence disagrees.
A lot of people will tell you that your target weight is anything between a BMI of 20-25. But many experts agree that body mass index is a crude and old-fashioned measurement that is not particularly helpful.
There are a number of celebrities and influencers out there that are encouraging people to love and accept the body they are in and to ditch the diet fads once and for all. All good advice if you ask me. But what about the indisputable fact that obesity predisposes people to a number of health conditions and can shave years off your life?
Back pain, arthritis, diabetes – these can all be reversed with weight loss. If we’re encouraging people to love their bodies and stop dieting (which I totally agree with, btw) do we leave room for purposeful weight loss in there too?
Be wary of the so-called experts out there
What about all the so-called nutritionists and weight-loss experts out there touting their latest theories? There’s one guy that keeps coming up in my Facebook feed who is trying to sell me a fitness programme based on my “body type”.
Ever heard the words ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph? This seems to be the flavour of the month in the diet and fitness world. Guess what? It’s all a load of rubbish and is not based on any science at all.
Somatotypes were first described in the 1940s by American psychologist William Sheldon. He believed that your body shape could be linked to your temperament, and suffice it to say this is no longer an accepted theory in the field of psychology.
So-called weight-loss experts have adopted the somatotype as a means of making money off people. I’ve done a literature search and haven’t been able to come up with one shred of evidence that supports the theories they are touting.
But it’s not just the fitness and diet industries who are ignoring the evidence. I have come across several nutritionists and dieticians who claim we should ditch the diet because everyone has a “set point” weight.
I’ve looked into the set point theory, and it is flawed to say the least. It doesn’t take into consideration a variety of factors, and most professionals agree that it is far more complicated than a simple set point.
So why am I not celebrating my weight loss?
Don’t get me wrong, I have given myself a good old pat on the back. I’ve stuck to my healthy eating plan, kept up the physical activity for the most part, and my body is clearly thanking me for it.
But somewhere along the line, my focus shifted.
I recently read a fantastic journal article that was published in Obesity Review back in 2002. It is entitled “from instinct to intellect: the challenge of maintaining a healthy weight in the modern world” by J C Peters et al. This article kind of blew my mind and completely changed my direction.
Let’s just say for a moment that I manage to get down to my target weight (we still haven’t agreed on what that is yet, but I think we’ll save that for another day). Then what? What happens next?
The reality is that in almost all cases, people who lose weight gain it all back. In fact, studies have shown that all too often people end up even heavier than they were to start with. If I focus on the weight loss, what happens once I’ve lost it?
A friend of mine suggested that I should stop using the word “loss” because in doing so, my subconscious will be inclined to try and find it again. I laughed when I heard that initially, because it sounded so literal. But now I’m not so sure.
A shift from instinct to intellect
Back to the article. It essentially confirms that we cannot trust out own bodies to maintain a healthy weight in today’s obesogenic society. Instinct is no longer of any use to us.
Our body is very good at regulating our weight when food is not always readily available and we are very physically active. In other words, the way we have lived for centuries. It essentially holds on to our fat stores to prevent us from starving, and increases our appetite.
Unfortunately, the opposite is not the case. In times where high-calorie food is readily available and we live a very sedentary life, our bodies aren’t very good at burning up our fat stores and reducing our appetite. In fact, it is quite the contrary.
Human beings have not evolved to maintain a healthy weight in today’s modern society. We cannot trust our bodies to tell us when we are full and when we are hungry. 150 minutes of exercise a week is not enough to reverse the detrimental effects that our sedentary lifestyles are having on us. And prolonged unhealthy habits have a negative effect on our metabolism and possibly even our genetics.
No matter how many changes our society makes, I don’t think it is possible to go back to the way we were in previous centuries. We have to accept that in most cases, our jobs require us to sit in front of a computer for at least 8 hours a day. Calorie dense foods that are high in sugar and fat are out there and they taste delicious.
If I want to remain healthy for the rest of my life, then I have to shift from relying on my instincts to using my intellect. Not just over the next few weeks and months as the number on the scale keeps going down. But over the next few years and decades as I get older and my bodies continue to change (along with my hormones and my metabolism).
Learning to be intentional about my health
So being healthy needs to be intentional. But what exactly does that look like?
Well that’s what I am trying to figure out. I am not sure that I want to stick to a diet of 1400kcal every day for the rest of my life. I am not sure that I should either. The time will come when I will stop trying to achieve an energy deficit every day and just consume my daily recommended calorie intake. For a 5ft 2 reasonably active woman in her 40s who weights 62kg, that’s about 1750kcal a day.
[You can work it out using an online BMR calculator]
Physical activity needs to become a part of my daily routine. The benefits of exercise are too many to list. Exercise is medicine. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence has just published guidelines on how doctors should be managing chronic pain. What’s the one thing we shouldn’t be doing? Prescribing painkillers. Instead we should be prescribing exercise.
Exercise is not just important for weight loss. It is important for life.
And now for the hard part
If I’m going to be intentional about my health, I am going to need to keep an eye on my weight. Whether this means weighing myself regularly or some other form of measurement, I need to know how I am tracking in order to make any adjustments and prevent myself from slipping into old habits. Bad habits.
But… and this is a really BIG but (even though mine is actually shrinking)…
But I cannot allow myself to become fixated on the scale either. Because I do not want to trade one unhealthy lifestyle for another. Exercise addiction is a thing. So are eating disorders. Purposefully underfeeding yourself as a means of coping with your emotions is just as bad as overfeeding.
So that’s what I am working on right now. Learning to love and accept myself at any size. To accept my weight loss as a by-product of my healthy choices as opposed to the reason behind them. I’m getting over my fear of the weighing scales but I’m also looking for other (better) ways of monitoring my health.
There is one particular friend of mine who reads every single one of my blog posts, so I know she will be reading this. She’s the person I really look up to when it comes to making healthy choices. She loves being active purely for the joy of being active. She eats well and has a healthy attitude towards food. And I think she looks great but she is not at all fixated on her looks. And she is the least judgemental person I know when it comes to body size.
I hope there will be a time in the future that I can say the same thing about myself.
Do you celebrate weight loss? What do you think it takes to remain healthy in today’s society? Why not leave a comment below. As always, if you’d like to find out more about me or subscribe to my mailing list, click here.