The weight loss industry in the United States has grown to 58.6 billion annually. Yet, despite the amount of money and efforts to focus on obesity, there has not been any significant improvement in the rates of chronic disease. The focus on losing weight to be healthy has failed to produce results. Instead of focusing on weight loss for measuring success, it is suggested by many nutrition professionals that we focus on being healthy, regardless of size.
Studies have shown that dieters can achieve short-term weight loss easily but sustained weight loss is rare. It is reported that close to 90 percent of diets result in weight regain, and typically dieters will gain more weight than what was initially lost. This weight cycling increases inflammation raising the risk of hypertension, insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease.
Being healthy does not have a particular look, size or weight. Having good health comes in every shape and size. All too often weight loss gets the credit for improving health when it was the adopted healthier behaviors that led to these improvements. Weight loss is not necessary for improving health. An overweight individual who has good habits can be healthier than someone of normal weight that doesn't have healthy habits.
Behavior change - independent of weight loss - is what drives our health. This weight-neutral approach focuses on positive habits that encourage healthy behavior changes. This means that obese individuals can improve their health by eating more nutritious foods and exercising regularly. Weight loss, if it happens, is secondary. By shifting the focus off of weight, the focus is on behaviors for health rather than reaching a number on the scale.
Weight-focused dieting can be both psychologically and physically damaging. By shifting to a more weight-neutral approach, the focus is on individual behaviors, thoughts and feelings. These behavior changes can stabilize weight at a healthy level regardless of being within the ideal weight range. So ditch the scale, and change your focus to improving your eating, sleep and exercise habits. This will support both mental and physical health of all individuals of any size.
Missy Corrigan is executive of community health for Sumter Family YMCA. She can be reached at email@example.com or (803) 773-1404.
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