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Weight Debate – Finding Middle Ground for Healthy Weight Loss

This week the groups were on there own, as I dealt with a case of vertigo and found myself unable to easily move about or focus my eyesight, which is now starting to improve.

The following post was written a couple of weeks ago, when I knew that people in the groups would be starting to focus on weight loss. As they understood when applying to the contest, this was not a quick weight loss program and weighing themselves regularly was not recommended. Yet I knew that after a month or so of making healthy lifestyle changes, many of them would be weighing themselves in hopes of seeing positive changes. I also knew that many wouldn’t see a change, and I wanted to explain why that might be and what they could expect. I also happen to see a weight debate on Nightline that fit right into the discussion.

Nightline’s Debate: Is it Okay to be Fat?
In late February on Nightline, they aired a debate between those that believe you can be obese and healthy and others who strongly believe you have to become thin to be healthy. It was a spirited discussion that failed to change opinions, and I wondered as I watched why there wasn’t a middle ground being offered. What about focusing on health and fitness (or creating an active and healthy lifestyle) as a way to naturally achieve a healthy weight? It seems as if people are being encouraged to pick sides: either extreme weight loss or a refusal to focus on weight at all, and I’m also seeing this in the health and fitness industry, not just Nightline. This is polarizing the debate and the programs being made available to people.

There is a middle ground, in which the focus isn’t on weight loss as a marker of health but as a natural result of living a healthy and active lifestyle. And while this approach, which I advocate, doesn’t focus on or promise specific weight loss, it does recognize that people will inevitably lose some weight if they adopt a healthy and active lifestyle and achieve a healthy weight they can sustain. It may not be the amount they hoped for, but by the time they achieve it they are usually very happy with the results and how they feel about themselves.

The debate was well timed to have a discussion about weight loss with the New You 2010 groups. At this point, after 6 weeks of being more active, eating healthier and getting portions under control, I knew that a number of people in the groups would be starting to wonder if they had or should have lost weight by now. I had made it clear to them at the start of the contest that they should not expect to have any weight loss at first and that they should avoid getting on the scale. Yet I knew some were weighing themselves, and it was time to talk about healthy weight loss.

What Happens When You Get on the Scale?
First I wanted to talk about what happens when you get on the scale. You can weigh yourself several times during the day, and each time you will likely see a different number. That is because our bodies are 60-70% water (even our muscles and bone are made up of water), and throughout the day as we eat, drink, urinate, exercise or get stressed our water weight changes. You cannot gain or lose a pound of fat in a day, so when the scale goes up or down a few pounds during the day, it is water weight and that isn’t what makes you fat. Furthermore, you have a 50/50 chance when you get on the scale of it going up or down, and you don’t control that.

Yet most people are affected by what the scale says, and whether it goes up or down it drives their emotions and their behavior. If it goes down, the common reaction is to feel good about oneself and feel deserving of a reward, doing less exercise or eating a bit more. And if it goes up, most people feel badly about themselves and will either ratchet up their exercise and dietary restrictions or have the opposite reaction of despair and turn to food while giving up on exercising, as if what’s the point. Sadly, all of these reactions only feed the cycle of being victim to the scale, and they don’t lead to making consistent healthy choices in food or fitness. Worse, the scale isn’t even an accurate indicator of what really matters, which is fat weight.

The Truth About Real Weight Loss
Another reason for ditching the scale is weight loss is not linear. You won’t see consistent and daily reductions in weight just because you are starting to eat better and exercising more regularly. That isn’t how the body works. Weight loss, when it is fat weight loss, is a complicated bio-chemical process driven by fat-storing and fat-releasing hormones and enzymes that support changes in metabolic rates. The more likely scenario is a pattern of ups and downs in your weight that over time trend downward, yet in some cases it is months of seemingly no change and then a drop in weight that is followed by another plateau. And that was my own experience. When I started my healthy lifestyle journey and finally exercised regularly while eating well, it took five months before I saw any change on the scale or in my clothes. And then I dropped a size almost over night. It was another four months before that happened again, and after that I waited yet another four months before I saw the next change. It took me two years to go from a size 16 to a 4, and fortunately I gave it time. What helped is I could see other changes in my energy, fitness levels and some greater tone in my arms and legs. And that is what is more important to focus on.

What I reminded everyone is that by making consistent improvements in exercising and eating, the weight will eventually take care of itself naturally as the metabolic set point changes. And the result is they will get a healthy weight they can sustain, instead of yo-yo weight loss they can’t. Not only that, they are starting off making very small changes and at this point they haven’t made significant enough changes or changes long enough for their bio-chemistries to start releasing fat. And when that does happen, men are predisposed to see it first. They have more fat-releasing enzymes than women, who have more fat-storing enzymes to protect a child in the case of famine. Those who have done a lot of dieting, or extreme dieting, and been sedentary for long periods – as I had, are also going to have a double whammy of even fewer fat-releasing and more fat-storing enzymes, which take time to turn around. But it is time well spent.

Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what the participants have to say about allowing themselves the time to reach a healthy and sustainable weight, which they usually add the Monday after this post goes live. Please feel free to add your own comments as you follow along.

To participate on your own or in a group, check out the contest website for details and tools at www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

  • Heather H

    Eating balanced meals really helped this week. I was not motivated to journal and was tired phyically but be aware of what I was eating and if the meals were balanced.

    In the past, if I was tired or unmotivated I would eat whatever was on hand or easy. This week, I made the effort to choose meals that were satisfying and balanced. Instead of being hard on myself, I reminded myself that this was a process and that some weeks will be harder than others.

  • Maureen

    I realized a while ago, after years of off-and-on involvement with commercial diet programs, that the weighing in and focusing on how many pounds I lost really didn’t work for me. Oh, it was great when I was losing weight, but when my weight was stable, or I gained a bit (gasp!) I was just so demoralized and discouraged that I found it hard to stay focused on my long-term goal, and started using less productive strategies like starving myself to force those pounds off. Inevitably, my inner demons rebeled, and soon I was bingeing on high fat high sugar foods that didn’t make me feel good, gaining weight, and giving up on yet another attempt to lose weight. It’s a cycle I have no desire to repeat.

    When Alice told me she didn’t recommend regular weigh-ins, I was really excited. I know that, for me, just living healthy will help make me healthy. Changing behavior (i.e., eating balanced meals, finding ways to be active and alive)is a lot more motivating (and exciting)than getting on that scale; I can manage my behavior, but I cannot control my bio-chemistry. My doctor will inevitably weigh me the next time I see her, and I expect we’ll both be pleased to see improvements in a number of my biometric measures.


Alice Greene
Healthy Lifestyle Success Coach

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