How many of us have “lose weight” as one of our new year’s resolutions? At the beginning of every year, following a period of eating a little more than we usually would because of the holidays, we may think we have gained a few. Or maybe it’s that at the beginning of the year too, we feel like we’re given a fresh start. So creating goals, like losing weight, seems attainable from a mental and emotional perspective because of that fresh start.
Losing weight, from a human perspective, is a difficult thing to do. The older we get, the more difficult it becomes. Apart from the physiological aspect of our metabolisms slowing down as we get older, losing weight often becomes a matter of changing our habits, ways of thinking, and sometimes our entire lifestyle. If you’ve ever tried to change even just one habit, you know that change is not something that comes easily.
Knowing that change isn’t easy is one of the many reasons our capitalist society has so many “solutions” to our weight loss desires. Many of these “solutions,” are just not going to work because they try to trick us into believing that we don’t have to change. We can just continue our habits – take this pill, do this routine for 10 minutes a day, eat this food, or don’t eat this food, and – boom – weight loss will happen. It’s the reason the weight loss industry in the United States is a $60 billion industry, which includes everything from surgery to diet books.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese, while more than one-third of children and teenagers, aged 6 – 19 are overweight or obese. It’s one reason that Michelle Obama has made healthy eating and exercise one of her goals as FLOTUS. The country, like it or not, has a health problem, not just a weight problem.
This health problem in the United States is hard to solve not just because of the individual choices of adults, and the choices adults may make for children, but also because it is a vicious cycle that includes everything from how food is grown and processed, to how society views its relationship with food. Food, in the United States, is not just seen as a means of nourishing the body and for enjoyment, but it is viewed as something to be wrestled with, consumed by, and obsessed over, in our lives.
This relationship leads to several food-related disorders including overeating, and coupled with less physical activity, and other bad habits, such as lack of sleep and stress, it is no wonder that weight gain feels inevitable, and subsequently weight loss too, becomes an obsession. Consider that this phenomenon occurs simultaneously with being spoon fed messages and ideas about how a body should look, not because of health, but because of “beauty.”
The system that fosters unhealthy eating, inadequate sleep, expensive fitness endeavors, overworking, and stressful lifestyles, is the same system that demands that one simply overcome it with personal conviction and look somewhere between Giselle and Kim Kardashian. This becomes the perfect condition for believing that one’s body is not only inadequate, but also falling into the trap of hating your body – the body becomes an apology.
If you think hating your body leads to wanting to change your habits, you’re wrong. This is according to science and psychology, and just about every health and fitness professional worth their salt. Caroline J. Cederquist, M.D, a bariatric physician, wrote a piece in the Huffington Post about how fat acceptance leads to weight loss because patients choose to describe themselves with language that humanizes, rather than dehumanizes. In a text dialogue with a friend, Jordan Parker, who was a health professional in Chicago, Parker confirmed that she had seen this phenomenon of body acceptance leading to weight loss, as a fitness professional.
The science of weight loss is probably more simple (not easy) than we make it out to be, and for most of us. There are of course exceptions for those who may have particular struggles because of body composition or health conditions that make weight loss harder. For most of us however, eating healthy and whole, and keeping our sweet, salty, and alcoholic cravings reasonable, would do us a world of good. And so will getting some form of exercise a few times per week. It is indeed harder for those who are in the poor or working class, and that is a systemic problem we have to address in terms of how our food is grown, processed, and our relationship to it, as a society.
What can you and I do now however, if we want to lose that five to ten annoying pounds that haunts us this time of year, or that 20 to 30 pounds that we’re wondering how we gained last year, or that 60+ pounds that we feel overwhelmed by, is to love and accept our bodies as they are now. Because by doing so, we begin to see ourselves as more than just our bodies, and psychologically, that leads to committing to making the changes we need to, in order for our bodies to change.