I recently conducted a quick survey and asked people these questions (all, but the first, being open-ended):
- Do you struggle with weight?
- Why do you want to end your struggle with weight?
- Why do you think you struggle with weight?
- What strategies have you tried to help end your struggle with weight?
- What advice, if any, do you have for people to end their struggle with weight?
I was just as interested in hearing from people who struggled with weight as from those who didn’t. Thankfully, I heard from all types:
- 74% said they struggled with weight.
- 12% said they struggled with weight, but secretly.
- 8% said they no longer struggle with weight, but used to.
- 6% said they’ve never struggled with weight.
These stats alone are a very telling story: Most people, regardless of their size, struggle with this issue. It’s sensitive. It’s hard to overcome. And yet, there’s hope.
Those in the first two categories shared a common desire to feel better, be more confident, fit into their clothes easier, have more energy, be happier, and be less mentally consumed with their weight. They credited their struggle mainly to overeating, a love of sweets, stress, always being on a diet, lack of willpower, not enough exercise, being too busy, age, and poor body image. And to help end their struggle, they reported trying everything from fad diets to laxatives to calorie counting and more. Ironically, none of them recommended any such strategies to others.
What did they recommend? Support, physical activity, a change in mindset, loving and taking care of yourself, patience, prayer, and not focusing on weight.
Their advice, in fact, reflected that of people in the other categories, those who have successfully ended their struggle with weight or who’ve never struggled with it. These people recommended facing your feelings, figuring out why you are eating, having an accountability coach, staying positive, taking health one day at a time, eating for nourishment, eating what tastes truly good to you, listening to your hunger, setting up a supportive food environment, getting exercise on a daily basis, and prayer. (Notice: no focus on weight.)
So where does this leave us?
Well, I think it leaves us with the notion that well-being trumps weight, and that though well-being might not be the “habit” of everyone just yet, it is – deep down – at the heart of everyone, those who struggle and those who don’t.
Is this focus on well-being (rather than weight) at the heart of health professionals, corporate wellness initiatives, and public health efforts, as well? According to some survey responses, like this one, you might not think so.
“I have been told I was fat since I was 5’8″ and 150 lbs. Now at 285, this is a much bigger problem. So if medical professionals stop telling people they are fat when they are athletic or a medium to large build, that would be a better approach. I think I gave up as a high schooler thinking 150 lbs was the end of the world even though I was active in sports.”
Thankfully, however, research and experience are starting to show otherwise.
More and more, a weight-inclusive approach to health care and health improvement seems to be getting more attention. Such an approach assumes that every person is capable of achieving health and well-being independent of weight, and promotes strategies such as intuitive eating, size acceptance, and engaging in pleasurable physical activity.
In their review article, “The Weight-Inclusive versus Weight-Normative Approach to Health: Evaluating the Evidence for Prioritizing Well-Being over Weight Loss,”Tylka, Annunziato, Burgard et al. point out various dangers that arise when weight is overemphasized…. dangers such as weight cycling, risk of disordered eating, and weight stigma. They also argued these three major shortcomings of such a weight-normative approach:
- Data does not (and cannot) support the claim that higher body mass index (BMI) causes poor health.
- The weight normative approach bestows negative judgments onto higher-weight individuals by promoting the view that such individuals are unhealthy, a burden to society, and have poor lifestyle habits.
- Promoting “healthy weight” as the key to health and well-being may instill a sense of learned helplessness in many people who are unable to attain weight-based goals.
- As a corporate health professional, health and wellness coach, and person who used to secretly struggle with weight, I am very excited to see people and society on this verge of “weight-inclusion.” I think we can all agree that this “weight thing” is a whole other ballgame…. for our nation, health professionals, employers, and people alike.
But one I’ve seen “won” many times over, when wellness programs, health professionals, and the people they serve realize that the struggle with weight isn’t actually about weight at all. And thus, neither are the solutions to it.
Get your free Love It or Leave It! Stop the Madness. Challenge.
It is a 4-week challenge based on the advice of survey takers who no longer struggle or never struggled with weight. Why not follow in their footsteps?Start the Challenge Today!
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