The surprising truth about weight
As a culture, we are caught up with weight. We associate it with health, morality and social status. But the truth is, the research tells a different story.
So why are we obsessed with weight to the point we will sacrifice our health and relationships, our careers and our passions just to try shrink our bodies?
It comes down to our belief pathways that have been formed, shaped and strengthened with the messages we have received since we were children, babies even.
Our beliefs about weight
What messages do you notice from the world around you?
At first glance, I see movies filled with thin people and health campaigns linking larger bodies with eating burgers. Thinking back to childhood, my Saturday morning music videos would go to an ad break filled with home exercise machines to "lose belly fat". The belief that losing belly fat is important became ingrained while I was innocently watching music videos (I won't get started on the impact of the music videos themselves).
These messages form our belief pathways which become so ingrained it is difficult to shake, no matter how much science we have to prove otherwise.
And when our culture is so ingrained in these same beliefs, these stigmatising messages show up everywhere, it is difficult to let them go.
But how helpful is a focus on weight loss?
The weight loss promise
Really, where has it got you? Weight loss plans promise health, morality, happiness and becoming a social queen glowing with energy from your kale smoothies that completely "hit the spot".
But in reality, we get worsened body image and low self-confidence. We find ourselves with food obsessions, bingeing in secret. We make excuses to skip social events and force our body to endure exercise we hate, that, let’s face it, won't last.
We sacrifice our physical and mental health to reach our weight loss dream, telling ourselves that once we reach that magical number we will start focusing on our health again...
...But we never do.
That number will disappear as fast as it comes, if we ever get there.
And then we feel like a failure.
Our belief pathways now tell us weight is everything AND we are failures.
Can you relate?
You don't have to live like this! You are NOT a failure.
In fact, we know the exact biological and psychological pathways that trigger food obsessions and weight regain.
Spoiler alert: It's not willpower - that doesn't exist.
Weight in research
The obsessive food thoughts, the cravings, the bingeing are all a direct consequence of your body fighting against your attempts to lose weight. It is not because your body is against you, it is because your body is fighting for you. Our cultural obsession with weight is keeping us stuck on the weight cycling roller coaster. With every new generation we instill these weight- obsessed messages, albeit a slightly different version.
The even stranger thing is, higher weight is not shown in any research to cause poor health. You read that right. Higher weight is not shown to cause poor health.
All the research shows is a correlation between higher weight and chronic disease. There are so many other factors that are at play in the research. Actually, when the research accounts for other factors that affect health such as weight stigma, weight cycling, stress, physical activity, fruit and vegetable intake the correlation goes away. On the other hand, many studies show an improvement to health from modifying behaviours with no weight loss at all.
In short, it’s not weight that affects health, it’s our behaviours and our environment we live in.
And, let’s face it. We say weight loss is for health, but many times it is not about health at all. It’s about social acceptance, not being the target of bullying and discrimination, self-confidence, morality and body image.
These are all valid and it is completely understandable that we go down the weight loss path to achieve this. Sadly, the research shows negative effects long term on all these factors. Think about the world around you again, how are these messages linked to your feeling of low confidence, your social interactions, the discrimination you may face and more. It’s not your body’s fault you experience this, it’s the cultural messages that lead to this.
What you can do
To break down the social discrimination and stigma, we need a cultural change. But, you can still work towards breaking down your own biases around weight and your body and this will create freedom and confidence for you. These belief pathways you formed throughout life are keeping you STUCK. But they can be weakened and new more helpful belief pathways can be formed.
Food obsession comes from obsession to control our bodies to fit these cultural ideals. Exploring the cultural messages from a new perspective is the first step to finding freedom from food obsession so you can get back to being the confident woman you really are. You can live free from food obsession taking over your mind, day and night. You can live in the moment, enjoy meals with friends, improve your health and feel good in your body.
But first, you need to let go of the control over your body.
How does that sound?
You deserve food and life freedom.
Written by Emma Townsin, Registered Dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor
Emma is the founder of Food Life Freedom and the host of the Food & Life Freedom Podcast. For personalised support to stop stressing over health and heal your relationship with food and your body, learn how you can fast track your way food and life freedom.
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