What’s the best way to lose weight for good? Is it to focus on the number on the scale? How many times have you lost weight only to have it come back on? Want to get out of that cycle?
Here’s the best way to lose weight for good.
Step Away from the Scale
It’s important to remember that weight loss doesn’t automatically equal health. Dalina Soto, MA, RD, LDN, registered dietitian and body-positive health advocate based in Philadelphia, told Verywell that after the December holidays specifically, many people want to work on themselves. “Most people associate weight-loss with healthy,” she said.
But focusing on weight isn’t always the most helpful way to strive for a healthy body. “What is it from that 20-pound [weight-loss] goal that you’re trying to achieve?” Soto asked. Asking these sorts of questions may help to disentangle weight from feelings toward your body and your actual health.
At the end of the day, Pumper added, working with your body, instead of against it, will help you live the fullest and healthiest life possible.
The Scale Doesn’t Tell the Full Story
Body weight-to-height ratio is often conflated with health. But for years, people have been unpacking this claim.
For instance, body mass index (BMI) is not without its problems. The weight-to-height ratio has no way of distinguishing muscle from fat, or how fast someone’s metabolism is. Because of this, a person with no health issues, who happens to be muscular and has a slow metabolism, could be classified as obese.
Additionally, body fat distribution is not as in our control as we might think. This distribution is largely inherited and plays a role in how our bodies are shaped, making it harder or easier to gain or lose weight.
“Our bodies do not care what we think we should look like,” Pumper said. “[Your weight] will be what is meant to be when you are properly fueling yourself and moving in a way that is appropriate for you.”
Issues like high cholesterol can be inherited, too—regardless of diet or exercise. These body and health factors, which are not really in our control, make it all the more important to talk to a healthcare provider and your family about your particular case.
“Genetic traits are unavoidable; there is no changing it, but we can learn to accept it,” Pumper said.
However, if setting weight goals is important to you, Pumper advised being thoughtful about what these goals mean for your values, well-being, quality of life, and relationships.
“If you fear every crumb that goes into your mouth, then is it really healthy?” Soto asked. “If you can’t enjoy your life to the fullest, if you can’t go to a party and just enjoy food because tomorrow you have to work out three hours to burn off the piece of cake—that is not health.”
What’s the Best Way to Lose Weight for Good?
Shifting the focus from weight to lifestyle changes will be more helpful in the long run.
When clients come to Soto saying they want to lose weight, she asks them questions. For example, besides the number on the scale, do you want to learn how to balance food so you feel more energized? Do you want to know if you’re eating healthy for your body’s needs or be able to move in different ways?
“We can do all of this, without attaching the number on the scale to it,” Soto said.
In this process of focusing on how you feel, Pumper said, weight change may happen naturally. But the point is to get there while practicing healthy behaviors—not harmful ones, such as fasting or excessive exercise, which have been used to achieve a certain weight or look.
“If there is just one piece of advice I can give you, it is this: Do not blindly chase after your outcome goal without regard for the impact of the process on your health and well-being,” Pumper said.
Pumper also encourages clients to ask questions, especially focusing on what this change means for future life and values:
• Why is this goal important to me?
• What will happen once I reach this goal?
• Does my goal align with my values?
• What are the risks involved?
• What behaviors will I use to get there, and can I keep these up over time?
“Come into your life and focus on what makes you feel good physically or mentally,” Soto added. “Let go of all of these buzzwords that really have nothing to do with health.”
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