Weight and health – fact or fiction?
While it’s true that there is an association between weight and certain health conditions, research suggests that certain health behaviours have more of a role to play in whether or not we get sick or develop certain conditions than weight itself. It’s not only inaccurate but also unhelpful to assume that someone is unhealthy simply based on how much they weigh. We know that it’s possible for people to live in a larger body and be fit and metabolically healthy just like it’s also possible for someone to be ‘skinny’ and yet have poor nutrition and physical fitness.
Unfortunately, we are constantly on the receiving end of message telling us to lose weight and conform to a thin ideal. For a lot of people, they are stuck in a cycle of yo-yo dieting and their life is ruled by the number on the scales. Rather than feeling happy and confident in their body, they feel guilt and shame.
The dangers of dieting
Diets don’t work! Less than 10% of people who lose weight on a diet will keep that weight off and many people who lose weight on a diet will end up gaining more weight back. Evidence suggests that constantly losing weight and regaining weight is more harmful to our health than being at a stable weight, even if that weight is classed as overweight.
Often people on diets are told to restrict their intake of foods from certain food groups. Commonly restricted foods include bread, pasta, potatoes and dairy foods. We know that to be functioning at our physical best we need to eat a good balance of foods from all food groups so we get all the nutrients we need.
Dieting also negatively impacts our mental health. People following diets often complain that they feel:
- Restricted in their food choices and resentful of the diet
- Left out of social occasions because they aren’t allowed to eat the food on offer
- Guilty when they break the diet or eat a food they “shouldn’t”
- Frustrated at having to make separate meals for themselves and their family
We have very good evidence to show that dieting reduces self-esteem and is a major risk factor for developing an eating disorder. Diets make us feel worse about our bodies too – and the worse we feel about ourselves, the less likely we are to take care of ourselves.
What is the alternative to dieting?
Instead of focussing on weight, focus on wellness by taking the Non-Diet Approach. Build a positive relationship with food where you learn to trust and listen to your body cues and make healthy decisions for yourself. Mindful eating is one way to help you tune into your body cues. Focus on eating foods that will nourish your body and find enjoyable ways to engage your body in movement. This takes time, especially if you have a long history of dieting, and our dietitians are qualified to guide you through this process.
For information about booking a nutrition consultation with an Allied Nutrition dietitian, please click HERE or phone us to discuss your requirements.