If weight loss is so hard, why bother?
Hmm. Did you know that 80% of people who lose weight fail to maintain that loss? That’s a lot of folks yo-yoing down and up and down and up. Why bother with yet another weight loss endeavor when so few people succeed in keeping the weight off? Why mess with such low odds?
Did you even wonder why eager students continue to apply to Harvard when only 5% are admitted? Harvard rejects 95% of its applicants. So why try?
Why try? Because difficult is not the same as impossible. Five percent of applicants did gain admission to Harvard. Twenty percent of dieters do lose and maintain a life changing amount of weight. As part of that 20%, I can testify that it is worth it. So worth it.
What do you get when you lose weight?
- You get health! Obesity is now the leading cause of premature death worldwide. Even a modest 5% decrease in weight reduces the risk of progressive diabetes by 50%. Losing 7.5% of excess weight can stop the degeneration of knee cartilage and halt osteoarthritis. Personally, by losing about 25% of my body weight, I cured my severe gastro-esophageal reflux disease and basically eliminated my risk of dying from esophageal cancer or the side effects of my reflux medications. Now I know I am going to die, but I would like to not hasten along that process. God gave me this body to live in for now; I want to take good care of it while I’m here.
- You get clothes! The fun of eating a cupcake lasts maybe 5 minutes, but the fun of wearing jeans in your high school size lasts all day long. All day long. After I reached normal weight (which for me is still pretty curvy, no danger of anorexia or fashion modeling here), I kind of went nuts buying pants. After years of frustration and struggle shopping for a cute plus-size wardrobe, the novelty that ordinary sized jeans would fit and look decent delighted me. I’ve been at my goal weight for more than two years now, and the thrill of the wardrobe has not worn off. Appearance isn’t everything, but it’s not nothing either.
- You get achievement! The positive psychology movement identifies achievement as one component of the fulfilling life. (The other components are: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, and higher purpose.) If you have been overweight for long, weight loss is a significant accomplishment. Maintaining significant weight loss is associated with improved quality of life and an increased sense of competence. If you have kept off a bunch of weight, I applaud you. (I recently met a man on the train who had lost more than 200 pounds—he was proud of himself and deservedly so.)
- You get more enjoyment from your food! Ironically, more controlled eating increases the pleasure of food. Overeating, particularly of hyper-palatable foods (think pizza, ice cream, cake, candy), causes your brain to turn off some of the circuitry responsible for feeling pleasure. So, the more you eat, the less fun it is. Conversely, food restriction and weight loss signals your brain to turn up your reward pathways. This process, called hedonic adaptation, protects your mind from excessive pleasure and is part of the mechanism that drives drug addiction.
- You get the quiet pleasures of character. It’s empowering and satisfying to see the development of your own character. Working through what peace and patience and self control can look like relative to your food is gratifying. Can you imagine experiencing zero guilt and zero anxiety regarding your eating? And the confidence that comes from controlling one area of your life seems to spill over into other areas. Once you conquer your weight, who knows what’s next?
Wishing you great success as you gently improve your health.
Women’s Weight Loss Coaching
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Brantley, P. J., Stewart, D. W., Myers, V. H., Matthews-ewald, M., Ard, J. D., Coughlin, J. W., . . . Stevens, V. J. (2014). Psychosocial predictors of weight regain in the weight loss maintenance trial. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 37(6), 1155-68.
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