People in bodies of all sizes experience all types of disease and conditions, the number on the scale doesn’t exclude someone from illness. Yet, somewhere in society and medicine, it has become commonplace to recommend, or prescribe weight loss as the solution to what ails.
I’ve explained before about the pitfalls of intentional weight loss, and that long term restriction is not sustainable. Chronic weight cycling, or yo-yo dieting as it is often referred to, also contributes to greater cardiovascular stress than remaining at a consistent weight—even a higher weight.
I’m not knocking physicians, but it is lazy medicine to tell a patient to simply “lose weight,” when what they really mean is, “I want you to address some habits that are going to alter specific health outcomes.” When we make changes to our lifestyle changes, the scale may or may not change—but our body weight will settle at the set point where it can thrive.
It can be hard to read between the lines when told by a medical professional that weight loss is necessary. First, find out what is the concern or condition they are trying to address. For example, if it is high blood pressure or hypertension, this can be treated through medication, movement, nutrition changes, stress management, checking in on sleep habits and hygiene, and ensuring hydration is up to par.
Another example, if you are experiencing joint pain, looking at physical therapy, therapeutic movement, nutrition from the lens of inflammatory foods, and pain management are all appropriate treatments.
Fat bias exists in the medical profession, and often people of size experience discrimination in care, being told to lose weight by extreme measures—restrictive diets that don’t provide enough calories for optimal functioning, bariatric surgery before other treatments will be administered, and other unattainable goalposts before treatment can be received. Gatekeeping to care runs rampant.
It’s easy to tell someone to advocate for themselves to ask probing questions when weight loss is prescribed like, “what would you tell a thin person experiencing my symptoms?” but it is another thing to put it into practice.
It circles back to empowering ourselves to what we can do in our situation. Reading between the lines. Critical thinking. When weight loss is recommended, what are the habits that contribute to altering the condition I am experiencing.
Is it movement? I can find support in getting started or specific care in discomfort that I am experiencing. Is it nutrition? I can find support and education in how to evaluate my current diet and changes I can make that would upgrade my food consumption to help me to thrive. Is it time or stress management? There is support and accountability I can reach out to get things off my plate.
Habit change starts with evaluating those core needs—movement, nutrition, sleep, stress, connection, and hydration. We can set goals and change our health outcomes, and when we focus on the root causes of our health issues, weight takes care of itself. Our body comes back to that place of homeostasis, or weight set point—and it’s not dictated by a weight chart or the BMI scale. Weight set point is highly individual and is where our body functions at an optimal level. That’s one of the greatest things about humans—we are all individual and unique and should be treated as such.
Being individual and unique comes back around to the inadequacy weight loss as a prescription for what ails. Advocate for yourself. Dig a little deeper. And work on those habits that are going to change your life for the better.
Stephanie Lueras is a body-positive certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist and owner of Heart and Sole Fitness in Lake Havasu City. For information, visit heartandsolefit.com.