Why weight loss shouldn’t be your primary goal

A couple weeks ago I shared a post about 5 reasons why you might not be losing weight. While I think these are important aspects to consider, I also wanted to share more about my general philosophy around weight loss – and how I don’t think it should be your primary goal.

While many people seek out the help of a nutritionist just for this, I try and steer clients away from placing weight loss at the top of their wish list and help them understand why there are so many other aspects to focus on instead.

Excess weight tends to be a symptom – not the problem

If you are indeed holding on to excess weight (and we’ll come to the discussion of real versus perceived in a minute), it’s often as a symptom of another issue. And it can be that by focusing on the true underlying issue that the excess weight will also stabilize itself naturally.

This could be caused by hormone imbalances, for example estrogen dominance. If your estrogen levels are too high on their own or compared to your other hormones, weight gain can be one of the symptoms experienced. Estrogen can stimulate your fat cells to store more fat, often leading to weight gain in the hips, butt, and thighs and can decrease the amount of thyroid hormone being produced (thus slowing your metabolism).

Your gut health also impacts how effectively your body can rid itself of excess hormones. If you’re experiencing gut issues it may be resulting in excess estrogen hanging around, causing estrogen dominance, and yup, you guessed it, weight gain! Leaky gut or other gut infections, a lack of diverse gut microbiota, inflammation, and other hormonal imbalances are all gut related issues that could cause excess weight or an inability to lose excess weight. 

And, of course, we can’t forget to mention stress! Stress causes our body, through the adrenal glands, to produce cortisol. Chronic stress results in an over production of cortisol which increases inflammation, downregulates our immune system, and notably promotes weight gain in the belly region. An increased cortisol production can also start to steal nutrients from other hormone production processes, creating imbalances in our hormones and a deficiency in some key nutrients. This can lead to strange cravings and a high propensity for over eating or consuming inflammatory foods (such as overconsuming sugary, salty, or greasy foods).

The “ideal weight” is just a social construct

Let’s dive briefly into the mental game of weight and body image. While I’m only going to scratch the surface if this complex topic, it’s always important to be honest about whether or not you actually need to lose weight. Could it be that you just feel pressured by images in the media to conform to what society has deemed the “healthy body”?

If you have abundant energy, feel great, and are overall healthy, then chances are you are already at an ideal weight for your body. Your ideal weight is going to look completely different than someone else’s even if you’re exactly the same age, height, and live similar lifestyles. 

Being overweight itself is not necessarily a health risk. It’s often the other things that go hand in hand with weight gain that are the culprits (poor diet, lack of exercise, too much stress, not enough sleep, etc.). 

It’s also important to note that the stigma attached to being “overweight” is more harmful than the weight itself (whether real excess weight or perceived). This can lead to psychological stress (which our body cannot differentiate from real or physical stress – increasing our cortisol production) and disordered eating behaviours. 

Rather than struggling on your own, trying to tackle excess weight by restrictive and/or fad diets, it’s always best to work with a professional. Having an outside, objective opinion can help give you the perspective you need to proceed in a healthy, sustainable direction.

Click here to learn more about how I work with clients to create their own unique plans to tackle their goals and build healthy habits. 

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Healthfully Heather

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