Know what is under the water.
When we think about our weight, our brains tend to focus on a few things: the number on the scale, our size, what we are eating or should be eating, and what we should be doing for exercise. This is normal. It is how we have been taught. But there are some problems with this. First, it assumes the weight is the primary issue. I prefer to think of excess weight and overeating as symptoms of the issue, not the actual issue. Second, this focus adheres to the “eat less, exercise more” mentality for weight loss. And that mentality just isn’t true. It’s what we were taught in medical school, but how well has it worked for you? Or for your patients?
I like to think of the things that influence our weight as an iceberg. Parts of it are easy to see and above the water (your weight, eating and exercise). But, there is a huge amount that is harder to see under the water. When we don’t look under the water, we are ignoring the driving factors for why our weight is what it is and why we eat what we eat. If your goal is to lose weight and keep it off, you will need to figure out what your personal iceberg is.
Is weight the right issue?
I wanted to make a specific comment that sometimes, losing weight isn’t the correct thing to be focussing on. I meet many people who are struggling with depression or anxiety or low self esteem and their brain chooses to focus on their weight as the reason for their discomfort. The problem is that it is really hard to make lasting lifestyle changes when you are dealing with a mood disorder. And often, the brain’s focus on weight loss in this setting is coming from a place of negativity, not self love. It is using weight as a distraction from the real issues. So when the depression or anxiety gets in the way of the plan, it can create all sorts of feelings of failure and actually worsen the overall picture.
Sometimes, the best thing for your weight is to give yourself permission to not lose weight. Give yourself permission to focus on getting your mood better or improving your body image without having any weight goals attached. This may feel counter intuitive, but in the long term it will be laying the ground work to reach your weight goals.
This doesn’t mean you need to accept gaining a significant amount of weight. What it can mean is to just focus on maintaining your weight as part of your long term weight loss strategy. It is so much kinder and will be more effective for your weight but also probably your life. Once your mood is better, you will find you have the energy and focus to start looking at losing weight and to do it from a much more positive place.
Weight Solutions for Physicians Podcast
This week’s Weight Solutions for Physicians Podcast episode discusses the issues that may be in your weight loss iceberg. Scroll down to listen in your browser or listen on iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher.
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