Columns, Opinion

Let Your Hair Down: It’s time to rethink the way we view weight loss and habit formation

The misleading nature of weight loss culture is an enduring theme in society. We live in a world that obsessively celebrates fitness and health through a very narrow lens, one that actually dismisses many of the real components of wellness.

Faulty ideas around weight loss, such as ones that subscribe solely to repetition and intense regimes, have been popularized by an industry that relies on customers’ failure to make money and expand.

Hannah Bohn

For most people, these restrictive diets are not effective in the long term, and they tend to only focus on certain aspects of our bodies and well-being while neglecting others. Modern science has informed us that, of course, our bodies and our brains are not mutually exclusive of each other. In fact, the two are entirely interconnected.

There is no “physical self” separate from an “emotional or psychological self” when it comes to eating. To approach overall health without understanding this is a gross oversimplification of our bodies’ functions.

Most mainstream diets put people on a regime of deprivation and restriction. For some, this may work for a few weeks. When it comes down to it, these steadfast weight loss plans typically do not result in a positive outcome — they simply do not work.

However, the biggest impact this form of dieting can have on us is a feeling of failure. This can be the most dangerous result of a faulty diet because we internalize the ineffectiveness of the diet as some kind of indication that we ourselves are inadequate.

Popular diets are designed to feel like punishments, as if they are testing our grit and willpower. This is part of what makes them so toxic. Weight loss is the only industry where we do not blame the product, but rather ourselves.

Rather than denouncing the diet itself, we reinforce a negative belief that we are not capable of making meaningful change on an individual level, and we simply are not good enough.

Alexia Nizhny/DFP STAFF

As a result, our self-esteem deflates, our relationship with food grows even more complicated and we are sucked back into the same vicious weight-loss cycle.

Most typical diet plans tend to solely focus on what to eat and how much to eat, but this is only one small component of what we should think about if we want to actually improve our health.

For example, stress plays a huge role in our behaviors and the way we interact with food. Sleep schedules, anxiety and depression, the influences of interpersonal relationships, our level of physical activity, exposure to sunlight and so on are also factors that influence what and how much we consume.

Our individual relationship with food is deeply complex and ever-evolving. We cannot view weight loss as an isolated factor of health and wellness.

As many of us have most likely come to learn, there is no single “fix it” recipe or overarching algorithm to getting healthy and feeling fit. The method of tackling a new habit head-on contradicts the way our brains actually work and ultimately leads to a sense of discouragement and hopelessness.

The truth to new habit formation falls outside of what we have been told about repetition. Habit formation is linked to our emotions and is achieved by creating a sense of accomplishment when we wire in a new habit. When you do something and feel successful, that behavior is more incentivized and thereby becomes automatic.

Feeling good is the key to forming healthy, long-term habits. Genuine behavior change is rooted in a change of mindset.

Everyone deserves to feel comfortable in their own skin. We are all worthy of moving freely throughout the world without feeling physically constrained by a negative relationship with food and our bodies. Health and wellness embody so many aspects of the lives we live and the identities we form as people.

So, we must remind ourselves that habit formation is complex, and so is how we feel about food. We have to look out for our whole selves and consider what makes us feel confident, powerful and energized when it comes to what we eat.

One Comment

  1. Absolutely fantastic facts written by a very smart individual, Hannah Bohn! Just love her weekly output!