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Why the dieting mentality can prevent you from losing weight

Posted by Dr Libby Weaver on

Recently I overhead two elderly ladies discussing how every morning they weigh themselves and how, this is actually really good because of course they’re not happy with the number and this motivates them to be really “good.” They were so sweet and kind and I’m sure all of us can relate to this well-meaning sentiment at some stage of our lives. However, I couldn’t help but think how many of us, women in particular – let our moods be dictated by a numerical value which in no way reflects who we are. In my experience it does not ‘motivate’ us to take better care of ourselves it actually tends to perpetuate a guilt spiral, which is actually a contributing factor to issues with weight in the first place.

When we consider food as either “good” or “bad”, often we extrapolate this to imply we are either “good” or “bad.” For example, the previous conversation, I’m “good” when I am eating well and I am “bad” when I choose foods that aren’t so nourishing for me. This black and white approach is what causes people to fall off the wagon – they’re all in or they’re well and truly all out! But real life happens in the grey. It is daily habits and choices that will get you closer to your health and wellness goals, not being “good.” There is no wagon to actually fall off.

Combine this with what can often be an obsession of weighing yourself and we have a modern day dilemma of dieting mentality. While on one hand weighing yourself provides a measure with which you can compare your efforts, you are actually far better to use waist circumference than weight – to assess weight loss/fat deposition. Personally, I prefer people to use their clothes and their physical health as an indicator – and particularly their energy as the currency of health.

I want to encourage you to view any weight loss goals/plans/ideas or concepts with a long-term focus on health. Instead of creating goals such as I want to be ‘xyz’ weight – consider I want to have more energy, I want to be physically fitter, stronger, able to run around with my grandchildren/children and so on.

It also reminded me of a lovely lady I met a number of years ago, who I was lucky enough to spend some time with. I wanted to share this with you because I feel this is a sentiment that many people can relate to:

“Before meeting you my day was dictated by the number that appeared on the scales. My choices, my attitude, my self-esteem, my everything depended on how I felt about my weight. Despite being extremely rigid with my diet and exercise regime (I’m talking about 12km runs most days) I felt like I could never trust my body and that one day I would wake up 4kg heavier for no reason. I mean I can see now it was disordered eating and body image. You told me to drop the weight thing and boy oh boy was it hard – but it worked. I am smaller than I ever have been and it’s effortless. I make choices based on what nourishes me (this includes my favourite corn chips, the occasional glass of wine and coffee and of course chocolate) but I love that these foods no longer make me feel guilty.”

Bring awareness to how much your weight dedicates your mood. Please remember that life is precious, you are precious and to treat yourself accordingly.