Dr. Sheldon Bjorgaard, ND
THE PARADOX OF WEIGHT LOSS HAPPINESS
In philosophy, many minds have speculated on the curious observation of “happiness”. Oddly enough, people who pursue happiness as an end find it increasingly elusive and difficult to obtain. Some have observed that the less we think about happiness, and instead focus on key behaviors and actions that are highly associated with happy people is really the key to actually obtaining it. These key behaviors could be things like fostering meaningful social connections, managing stress, engaging in enjoyable hobbies, or contributing to the well-being of your community.
What does this have to do with weight loss you may be asking?
You see, focusing on numbers on the scale is often precisely what is preventing us from losing weight, or at least keeping it off long term. Anyone who has ever lost and gained weight (almost everyone) knows about the rollercoaster of emotions that the scale can cause. You lose 5 lbs, feel elated, let yourself have a “little cheat” gain 2 lbs, feel frustrated, angry, depressed, restrict food again, and the cycle continues.
The Cycle of Weight Unhappiness:
1. You go on a “diet”.
2. The scale drops.
3. Your mood improves.
4. Hunger and cravings hit (due to stress, birthdays, holidays, or anything social).
5. You indulge.
6. You feel guilty.
7. You gain weight.
8. You restrict even more, or you give up and decide weight loss is too hard and you just want to “enjoy” yourself.
I hesitate to compare weight loss to happiness, because studies show that weight loss, being “slim” or fitting into an objective physical standard does not make people happy. The point I am making however is that just like the pursuit of happiness, overly focusing on weight (i.e., numbers on the scale) often makes it HARDER to lose weight.
Okay, so what is the solution?
HEALTH. By focusing on health, we are much more likely to achieve and maintain a comfortable body weight, and also feel much better about ourselves.
Patterns of eating a that are rich in foods that have been shown to lower the risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease also funnily enough have been shown to lower weight to a comfortable, healthy set point. Doing low intensity exercise such as walking for as little as 15 minutes per day improves immune function, stress management, mood, energy, mental clarity, insulin sensitivity, and again funnily enough lowers appetite resulting in a healthy body weight reduction.
The Cycle of Health Happiness:
1. Eat MORE nutritious foods that you enjoy.
2. You feel better (even if the scale doesn’t move right away).
3. You are more active, since you have more energy.
4. You have healthy treat foods so that you don’t crave calorie dense processed foods.
5. You lose weight.
6. You maintain a healthy weight for years with your healthy, enjoyable nutrition and daily gentle exercise.
Each of these steps can require detailed planning and a personalized implementation strategy based on an individual’s health history and goals. Other steps can be added to make the process more efficient and train your body to burn more fat, such as Intermittent Fasting and targeted supplementation.
Get off the unhappy cycle, and stop focusing on losing weight and end up GAINING health!