Stop the guilt and live healthily, lose weight

Thursday, 25 February 2021

You might hear the term weight neutral bandied about in relation to healthy lifestyle. Other common terms include a non-diet approach, eating mindfully or intuitively, and Health At Every Size or HAES. What does it all mean?

While they all have slightly different meanings they’re all trying to:

  1. reduce the guilt associated with living in a larger body while encouraging you to do healthy behaviours; and
  2. to get you to not focus on your weight and intentional weight loss when you consider whether your lifestyle is healthy or not.

Weight loss is not one behaviour

Why? Because weight loss is not a behaviour. It’s an outcome of many behaviours.

We know that intentional weight loss often doesn’t last. Generally, most people will regain their lost weight after two to five years.

Most people can go on an intentional weight loss “diet” for a short time but due to the nature of most of these diets they’re difficult to maintain long term and so people usually stop them at some stage.

Shame and failure

There is an emotional consequence associated with this decision that can cause feelings of inadequacy, body shame, and a sense of failure.

The general belief in the community is that people fail to lose weight because they lack willpower and discipline. That leads those of us who stop our weight loss diets to feel blame and shame.

This weight cycling – also called yoyo dieting – also has negative outcomes for the body: we lose muscle and fat when we lose weight. When we regain weight we only gain fat, unless we’re doing lots of resistance exercise.

So, a person who yoyo diets can end up having a body composition higher in fat than before they lost weight. That increases their insulin resistance, making blood glucose management more difficult.

What can we measure our lifestyle by?

How do you measure if your lifestyle is healthy?

Look at whether you’re living with healthy behaviours. “What behaviours and why?”, I hear you ask – keep reading.

We do know that if you do healthy behaviours you might lose weight as a side effect. But we still don’t want you to focus on the weight loss, as we want you to keep focussing on – and doing – the healthy behaviours.

So totally separate the behaviours with the weight loss in your mind! Those healthy behaviours have benefits for your blood glucose management, blood fats and cholesterol levels, blood pressure, your mood, your balance and strength, your quality of life. The benefits can’t be counted.

Healthy behaviours

What are these healthy behaviours and how will they improve your health?

Eating healthy balanced meals – most of the time. By eating healthy balanced meals most of the time it means large amounts of high sugar/high saturated fat/high salt foods would not be chosen regularly, helping blood glucose levels and heart health. Your food focus would be on eating fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, legumes, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, unsweetened dairy foods or alternatives, and small amounts of lean chicken and meat, and unsaturated fats. It doesn’t mean you can’t have small amounts of sugary/fatty/salty foods, but that they remain as ‘sometimes and in small amounts’ foods.

Having a positive relationship with food. This means you are less likely to binge eat as no food is restricted. There’s less guilt and less psychological stress if you do enjoy ‘sometimes and in small amounts’ foods. By not moralizing food as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ but rather being curious and observing how food and situations affect you physically and mentally you are more able to nourish your body.

3 Doing regular exercise. This will help manage your blood glucose levels, reduce ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and increase ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, as well as improve your overall fitness, strength, flexibility, and balance. And it’s great for your mood.

Getting enough sleep. This helps you to be more energetic during the day. You’ll feel more like doing some of the other healthy behaviours if you’re not tired and cranky.

5 Managing your stress proactively. This might mean seeing a psychologist for strategies to manage situations, doing daily meditation or whatever works for you. As you know, blood glucose levels are increased with stress so with less stress your blood glucose levels are better managed, you are more likely to sleep better, and, again, engage in other healthy behaviours.

6 Taking your medication as prescribed by your doctor so your health conditions, including diabetes, will be better managed.

Seeing your health team regularly. You can bring up any concerns in a timely manner and have treatments for anything that pops up. It’s also a good chance to get your questions answered which otherwise might cause stress or anxiety.

By Dale Cooke APD 

Join our community of over 45,000 people living with diabetes