If you choose to diet, you may be disappointed.

 The majority of dieters do not lose weight but instead regain and surpass their original weight within 2-5 years.

In this article, we will discuss why focusing solely on weight loss often doesn't work over the long run and 3 things you can do instead to improve your health right now.


Why Is it So Hard to Lose Weight?

When it comes to weight loss, your personal goals are likely at odds with the goals your body has for you.

In order to "save you" from what it thinks is starvation, your body does all it can to get you to regain weight once you lose it.

One example? It releases hormones that make you hungrier and more likely to crave all those foods you’ve been avoiding.

And due to physiological changes that are not entirely understood, significant weight loss can severely decrease your metabolic rate over time.

In other words, your body responds to your weight loss by becoming very efficient at hanging on to every calorie you eat. It also prevents you from burning as many calories during exercise as you did when you first started dieting. 

Some research suggests these changes may continue for years after you diet and even may continue once you regain the weight you lost. This makes all subsequent weight loss attempts even more challenging because your body is now primed to burn fewer calories. 

Thanks to these changes and others like it, your body creates the perfect storm for regaining weight after dieting, despite your best efforts.

You did not fail.

Instead, your diet failed you.


What Happens When You Only Focus on Weight Loss?

A blind focus on weight loss can be a distraction from achieving other valuable goals in your life. 

The obsession can make you feel miserable, all without getting you any closer to the body of your dreams.

Have you been fighting with your body your entire life to lose weight? If so, regaining the weight can lead to feelings of failure, guilt, shame, and reduced self-esteem.

Even if you are successful at shedding a few pounds, the obsession doesn't stop there. It is a constant struggle to monitor every calorie and step to keep that number from creeping back up.

There is a better way. 

Instead of focusing on numbers on a scale, honor your health by practicing good self-care. This includes treating yourself kindly, feeding yourself well, and finding realistic ways to enjoy physical activity.

When you shift your mindset to focus on ways to take care of yourself instead of losing weight, you will achieve better physical, emotional, and mental health. 


How to Take Steps Toward Health and Vitality in the Body You Have

What happens when you take weight loss and dieting off the table? You may be afraid that you will gain even more weight. In reality, when people take this approach, the opposite seems to happen, such as:  

  • improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • better self-esteem and body image
  • boosts in happiness
  • weight stability
  • healthy habits that stick 

If a non-diet approach to health resonates with you, try to find a healthcare professional you can trust to help you on this journey. 

Here are  3 steps to get started at home.


1.Treat Yourself with Compassion

When you treat yourself with compassion you learn to trust your body to take care of you. The result? You naturally make choices that honor your desires, needs, and health.

If you practice self-compassion, you are more likely to eat nutritiously, be active, and get enough sleep. As you can imagine, all of these behaviors will improve your health.

One simple way to get started is to choose kindness. Pay attention to what your body needs instead of what you think it needs.

For example, maybe you need to hit the snooze button for 15 minutes and do some light stretching instead of hitting the gym so your body and muscles can recover.

You might need to take a break from work to walk around a bit or grab a snack instead of powering through.

Notice opportunities to treat yourself better by giving your body what it needs. The benefits will add up before you know it.

 

2. Be an Intuitive Eater

If you want an example of what intuitive eating looks like, watch a baby eat.

They approach food  with gusto, enthusiasm, and pure pleasure (depending on what food it is). They eat what they want and stop when they have had enough.

Start to relearn intuitive eating by paying attention to your hunger and fullness cues.

Think of your hunger and fullness as falling on a scale of 1-10. 1 is so hungry you can’t function and 10 is Thanksgiving level stuffed.

Aim to eat before you feel ravenous (maybe between a 3-4) and to stop eating before you’re stuffed but satisfied (7-8).

Listen to your body when it tells you it’s hungry. Pay attention to which kinds of foods make you feel most satisfied and energetic. You will be well on your way toward better health by eating in this way. 

 

3. Find New Ways to Enjoy Movement 

Did you know that even 5-minute bouts of activity can improve your health and your mood?

Being more active does not have to mean forcing yourself to spend hours in the gym, unless you want to.

What can you do instead?

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator 
  • Visit the bathroom that's furthest away
  •  Set a timer  to get up from your desk every hour to stretch
  •  Sweep or vacuum enthusiastically
  • Keep your headphones and walking shoes in the car for a spontaneous walk
  • Park farther away to get more steps in

Naturally working activity into your day is easier to maintain than a workout routine. You can get in the habit of being active anywhere, anytime it suits you.

Pay attention to changes in your mood, energy level, and ease with which you are able to take the stairs or walk.

When you notice how movement makes your life better, you will enjoy being active more than ever before, and keep it up.


Summary

You may imagine weight loss as the cure to everything that ails you. And at the same time, obsessing over your weight could actually be steering you away from living a full and healthy life. 

When you choose to focus on self-compassion, intuitive eating, and joyful movement, you can reap the benefits of improved health, vitality, and self-esteem, regardless of what the scale says.


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 Samantha Tinsley, MPH, RD 
Samantha Tinsley is a Registered Dietitian. She enjoys sharing practical information about how people can lead healthier lifestyles by making simple changes.
Check out more information on her website: https://www.budgetdietitian.com.