I have been a weight loss enthusiast for a long time, mostly because, like so many of my other interests, the topic is full of widespread misconceptions that I love to try to debunk.
The topic is, however, full of misconceptions for a good reason. The bottom line about weight loss is that it is an incredibly nuanced topic. While the physics of weight loss are simply broken down to the well-supported concept of energy balance, for most people, simply eating less than their body uses for energy to achieve overall weight loss is just not so simple.
It’s difficult to maintain, for one reason. Another is that most people don’t understand the basics of macronutrient breakdowns, and so they’ll eat a balance of macronutrients that again, makes remaining in a sustained calorie deficit difficult. People will also grossly undereat, again, totally not sustainable.
What’s more, weight loss is not, as we so often believe, a direct contributor to either esthetic or overall fitness.
The reality is, no one actually wants a lower number on the scale, no matter how much we convince ourselves of this. Yes, for many people a significantly lower number on the scale will come as the result of an improved diet and lifestyle. But that’s still not what we want.
We want to both look, and to be, healthy.
Think about it.
Do you want to step on the scale and see those beautiful numbers you haven’t seen since your freshman year of college, or do you want to look in the mirror without thinking “gah, I need to stop eating the kids’ cheese puffs!”
Do you want to pull on your jeans (and then bend over in them to pick something up) without strain or effort or the feeling of an oppressed middle section?
Do you want to wake up in the morning feeling good, happy, healthy? Do you want to stop worrying constantly about what hormone imbalance/nutrition deficiency/autoimmune disease you might have and how much it might cost to find a doctor who will take it seriously and treat you naturally?
This is what we want. To be, and look, and feel healthy.
As both a weightlifter and a (very green) devotee of functional health, I’ve learned the hard--yet rewarding way--how treating the root causes of unhealthiness that are tangential to my weight are so much more rewarding than simply worrying about my weight.
It’s caused me to eat according to what will encourage healthy gut microbiota. It’s caused me to try to reduce endocrine-disrupting cosmetics and cleaning products from my daily life. It’s taught me that the source of my macros is just as important as the balance thereof. It’s shown me that the way I feel and look walking around can be vastly improved by targeting and addressing breakdowns in my mobility and muscle recruitment patterns, without losing a single pound of fat or gaining a single pound of muscle.
It’s taught me to put my relationships and my responsibilities to my family ahead of the gym, how bonding it can be for my family to eat the same thing instead of making macro-friendly short-order meals for myself while my kids and husband eat in the other room. I’ve prioritized sleep and mental rest and most of all, my relationship with God and listening to how He wants me to live my life.
Health and fitness aren’t about weight. Weight loss is a residual side effect of improved health as being overweight is both a result of and a contributor to unhealthiness, yes. And simply aiming to lose weight is a great way to improve one’s health--for many people.
But not everyone.
However, everyone will benefit from stripping away the reasons we want to “lose weight,” identifying what we really want, and then going even deeper. What is going on inside our bodies? Our gut, our brain, our endocrine and immune systems and all the other intricately designed interrelated functions of our body that can influence our overall health, mood, and ultimately, our weight? Furthermore, what’s going on in our soul? In our heart? Are we allowing ourselves daily exposure to the aspects of life on this planet that ooze with all the goodness and beauty of God’s creation? Getting out into nature, loving on our families, enjoying the fruit and meat He has blessed us with, loving on the Saints, taking joy in our work, singing His praises?
All these things will always matter more than the number on the scale. So we might as well prioritize them above whatever weight it is that we’ve convinced ourselves would make us happy.