Why you should stop trying to lose weight -- and what to do instead
Mercedes Diaz, MMP, CPT
If you have successfully lost weight or maintained a particular weight through healthy diet and moderate exercise, you may want to stop trying to “lose weight” and focus on weight maintenance, and here’s why.
Trying to lose weight can be a struggle for most people and while a lot of fad diets will try to sell you on the idea that if you “just stop eating carbs'' or if you just eat these particular foods, in this particular order, then you will lose weight and keep it off. Science is suggesting that a lot of us may be hardwired to be a particular weight and our bodies may be fighting to stay at that weight.
This theory is called set point theory.
Scientists for years have been using the calories in, calories out (the law of thermodynamics) to explain weight gain and the obesity epidemic. However, recent studies are showing that while the law of thermodynamics is a good place to start, especially if you know you are not eating well or getting enough exercise, it is not the whole story. Maintaining your weight is determined by inherited traits, the environment, your personal basal metabolic rate and by hormonal, psychological, and genetic elements.
What is Set Point Theory?
Set point theory, is the idea that our bodies have a particular weight that it is designed to be at, and that our bodies will fight to stay at that weight or get back to that particular weight at all costs.
Similar to a thermostat in your home, when you set the thermostat to a particular temperature and the temperature in your home drops, the thermostat kicks on to heat the room (or cool it) to bring the environment back to it’s pre-programmed temperature.
The thermostat in our body could be what’s going on when you “hit a weight loss plateau” or no matter how low you take your calories you just can’t seem to lose any more weight. Instead, so many of us have the experience of actually gaining weight despite our efforts. And so the cycle of diet- binge eating continues, which just leads to more weight gain.
Now, this wouldn’t be such a big deal, except that scientific evidence shows that those of us trying to diet and “break through a weight loss plateau” may be instead causing our bodies more harm than good.
So, even though you lose the weight, keeping that weight off becomes a bigger issue in the long run and your body's protective measures may kick in and throw your set point up higher, making it even harder to lose weight the next time around.
💡 Did You Know? Roughly 90 percent of people who lose a lot of weight eventually regain just about all of it.
Research shows that roughly 90% of people who lose a lot of weight end up regaining just about all of it and sometimes even more than where they started.
What can you do instead?
So, what happens if you need to lose weight for your health? Or you still just want to lose a few pounds to feel healthier? Not all is lost, here is what we recommend you do instead:
Start with acceptance
The first thing we recommend is that you work to change your mindset. When you are engaged in negative self talk and you are desperate to lose the weight, often times that amount of stress can cause you to self-sabotage when the going gets tough. Instead, focus on accepting your body as it is today. Purchase clothing that actually flatters your figure, and stop wearing clothes that are 2 sizes too small (or 2 sizes too big!). Find celebrities and models that are YOUR size and shape, and stop looking at images of people you simply will never look like. These small changes will help you to shift your focus from the self-deprecating behaviors that are no help to you at all.
If you still want to lose weight, research shows that you can actually change your set point, but you have to do it slowly. Instead of trying to lose 20 pounds in 3 months, work on losing 10 pounds in 3 months and then spend another 3-6 months maintaining your new weight. This will often times help signal to your body that this is in fact your "new weight". Once you have successfully maintained your new weight, work at getting down another 10 pounds. Continue with this process until you have effectively reached your goal weight.
Maintain Your Weight & Contour
You may not need to lose weight because you are already at a healthy weight. Or maybe you do need to lose a little but you are taking our advice and going really slow with it. Instead of putting yourself through the stress of not achieving fast enough, work to maintain your weight and setup monthly body-contouring treatments to work on the stubborn fat. So many of our clients have been able to lose inches off their stomachs, thighs and arms effortlessly while focusing on small changes to improve their health. Body-contouring can be exactly what you need to shape your body without needing to lose weight at all.
Learn Intuitive Eating
Sometimes our weight gain has nothing to do with external factors and instead it has more to do with our emotional responses to food. You may be the type of person who binge eats when you are bored, tired, anxious, sad, etc. Or perhaps you have the habit of eating until you can barely breathe (and it's not a once in a while thing). Or maybe, as soon as you try a new diet (especially the ones that restrict your favorite foods) you just feel like it's an impossible task. Enter intuitive eating. Instead of focusing on what you can't have, learn to pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues, learn to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. Stop restricting foods, and start just trying to make smaller changes that include healthful, nutritious options instead of restricting the less than nutritious options.
Celebrate the small victories
So often we are so hung up on how much weight we "need to lose", that we forget to get excited about the smaller achievements. When you have lost those 10 pounds make sure you celebrate that. When you get dressed up for a night out and you know you look good, take some selfies and be proud and share them. Celebrate the person you are today-- don't obsess over the person you want to be.
Weight-loss is not all that it's cracked up to be, and most of us are starting to realize this. Fitting into the size 0 jeans you used to be in college, might not be necessary if you are at a healthy weight and your focus is health. Instead, work on making small changes in your life and mindset that will lead to a healthier version of yourself. Use body-contouring treatments as a way to free yourself from the desire to be a "certain size".
Want to work with us?
If you are looking for a way out of fad-dieting and the endless cycle of not achieving your body composition goals, we can help. We offer cutting edge, science-backed cryotherapy and lymphatic drainage to help sculpt the stubborn fat right off you, reduce bloating and water retention, decrease inflammation, and increase circulation with our in house technologies.