Scaling Back on the Unhealthy Obsession with Weight

In case you didn’t hear, it’s that time of year again. You know, the one where you need to lose weight, eat less, work out more and become a “new you.”

The New Year always brings countless resolutions surrounding health and fitness, but with that comes the stress of maintaining new (and sometimes unattainable) goals. According to the IFIC Foundation 2015 Food and Health Survey, of those who set New Year’s resolutions (mostly health- and fitness-related), six in ten were “somewhat following” their resolution by March, and only three in ten were “strictly following.”

With diet and exercise resolutions comes the obsession with body weight. Many of us have been using a scale and the BMI (body mass index) chart for most our lives, so not focusing on weight can be a hard habit to break. Sure, many of us still may want that so-called “beach body.” But setting weight-focused goals often leaves us with more frustration than a sense of achievement. Let 2017 be the year that you take that little fluctuating number off a pedestal and instead focus on eating to maximize overall health, rather than micromanaging your weight.

Weight ≠ Health

Although they seem to be used interchangeably at times, health and weight are not the same.

  • Things we know about a person based on body weight: how much they weigh, a measure of the Earth's gravitational pull on them. How groundbreaking! (Well, hopefully not literally.)
  • Things we don’t know about a person based on body weight: blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, cardiovascular health, muscle mass, if they smoke or drink excessively, happiness, body fat percentage, mental health, amount of exercise, etc.

Can we agree that measuring health by using only body weight can be problematic?

The Downside of BMI

Body Mass Index (BMI) uses a person’s height and weight to calculate a value, and sticks them into these categories: underweight, normal, overweight or obese. According to the CDC, “BMI can be used to screen weight categories that may lead to health problems, but it is not diagnostic of the body fatness or health of an individual.” BMI is a screening tool for healthcare professionals, not an indicator of health.

We know that being overweight or obese can increase the risk for things like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. Being underweight can put an individual at a greater risk of infection due to a weak immune system, and can interfere with vitamin and mineral absorption. However ... the term “increased risk” is key here. Being overweight or underweight alone is not indicative of having a health issue.

A New Resolution

Was your resolution to lose X pounds this year? Instead, try to skip the mid-March guilt trip and choose resolutions that are attainable. It’s not too late to opt for one of these health-oriented resolutions instead:

Resolution

Health Benefits

Tips

Eat more fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables contain loads of many nutrients your body needs, such as potassium, fiber, folate and vitamin C.

No need to change your entire diet and lifestyle to incorporate more fruits and veggies. If you like yogurt, try adding fruit. All forms of fruits and veggies (fresh, frozen, dried or canned) count toward your daily goal, so be on the lookout for options that are fast and easy to prepare.

Exercise more, but find an activity you enjoy.

Regular exercise can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Physical activity strengthens bones and muscles, and it improves mental health.

To help make regular exercise become a habit,  find an activity that you enjoy so that you can stick to it. If you prefer walking, weight training or yoga over running, don’t force yourself to be a runner.

Practice mindful and intuitive eating.

Mindful eating encourages meals without distractions to reduce mindless overeating. Intuitive eating focuses on listening to natural hunger cues of the body.

To eat intuitively, eat when you’re hungry and stop eating when you’re satisfied. Check in before you eat to make sure your hunger is not due to emotions, boredom or an external stressor. Eat more slowly and savor every bite.

To eat mindfully, put away the technology, turn off the TV, and be aware of each bite.

New Year’s resolutions can be a great motivator to make a change to your diet and lifestyle, but remember to choose something you can stick to. If you do get off track with your resolution, don’t sweat it. The important thing is to pick it back up when you can, and continue to set goals for yourself regardless of what time of year it is.

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