The weight loss conundrum

Disclaimer: this post expresses my personal opinions. Fancy that. On my personal blog too. And guess what, this opinion may even be different to yours. You can let me know if you agree or disagree with the views expressed here. You might even go as far as to tell me that I am wrong. I may or may not care about that. Enjoy reading.

Phew. Now that we got that out of the way let’s talk weight loss. Everyone on the internet knows that the best way to get traffic is to tag your pearls of wisdom  “weight loss tips” and “Jessica Biel’s diet secrets”. I have neither. Sorry. But this post was mostly brought on by the frustration that the topic of losing body mass is still a priority not just in conventional women’s magazines but in ancestral health community.

You know the one: “Yes, I’ve given up grains because Robb Wolf told me to, I don’t eat refined carbs after reading Gary Taubes, I stopped sugar after watching that Lustig’s video and I force down a tablespoon of fermented cod liver oil since attending Weston A.Price conference. I feel great but… How do I lose another 10kgs?”

And of course there is no shortage of available experts on the interwebz:
– eat less carbs
– eat more safe starches
– introduce interval training
– stop HIIT to salvage your burned out adrenals
– eat sauerkraut for healthy gut
– calories don’t matter
– calories matter
– start IF
– use FitDay to track your daily intake
et cetera.

It’s all very sad.

In the meantime the average long term success of most weight loss strategies is around 1%. Yeah, sure, most people do it wrong. They choose the wrong diet (Lemon Detox, anyone?), they choose the worst possible exercise (if you are a female with a cup size C and above, for god’s sake stop running). And they just don’t have the willpower that the new dieter has (sarcasm font). Because the new dieter knows that he/she will be different. I will be in that 1% who does it right and stays skinny ever after. The End.

There are numerous reasons why weight loss strategies fail. And there are numerous reasons why they succeed. Temporarily. You can lose weight in literally thousands of different ways: Paleo, low fat, low carb, low calorie, ketogenic, vegetarian, aerobic exercise, HIIT, IF, bariatric surgery, liposuction…

That’s why the to and fro arguments on which approach is better for weight loss is kinda pointless. YES! YOU CAN LOSE WEIGHT EATING MARS BARS AND DRINKING COKE! (feel free to leave this page at this point and celebrate).

We have this love and hate relationship with a number that determines our body mass. Lily Allen famously said: “And everything’s cool as long as I’m getting thinner”. There is another number that we have become very preoccupied with in the last few decades: serum cholesterol. Chasing that number (down) is the name of the game, mostly by pharmacological means. Of course, you could tilt this snow globe upside down and decide that the number per se is not very meaningful and in fact represents some other pathological process in the body. Ideally you would choose an intervention that both addresses the cause of the problem and pushes that number in the direction you want. A nutrient-rich diet free of processed junk and pro-inflammatory toxins accompanied by reasonable physical activity is likely to address the chronic inflammatory state that leads to dyslipidaemia and therefore drop the dreaded cholesterol numbers down and please your conscientious doctor.

But sometimes it doesn’t get you to the magic 5.5 mmols that your doctor wants to see. Just like your 6 month foray into the Paleo diet fails to get you to that elusive number that determines your weight, size and consequently happiness. Time to go on PaleoHacks and shout for help.

I am not having a go at the desire to be slimmer. Sure, I wouldn’t mind losing a few kgs. I also wouldn’t mind losing my freckles or having bigger hands (it sucks trying to find surgical gloves that fit). Neither affects my sense of self worth.

So for what it’s worth, these are my ideas in relation to weight loss (note, doesn’t say FOR weight loss):

I am overweight? Oh thank you, kind sir, I wish I knew this earlier! Let me just switch to a healthy diet and start running.

1. If your primary focus is weight loss you are already behind the eighth ball. If being skinny was a powerful motivator we wouldn’t have 2/3rds of Western world overweight or obese. Wanting to lose weight tends to screw with people’s heads even with the best foundation: they start stressing (excess cortisol=bad), they start reducing/counting/starving/hating their bland food/exercising at 5am and generally stop listening to the bodies.

Things are quite different when you eat to nourish every cell in your body. Shift your focus to wellness and flip the switch.

1a Unless you have congestive heart failure or chronic kidney disease, chuck your scales. Like now. Get up and throw them in the bin.

2. Start with having a nutrient-rich diet and get rid of junk. Use whatever framework takes your fancy: Paleo, primal, perfect health diet, whole30, Mediterranean, vegetarian (gasp! ). Minimize the “healthy” versions of unhealthy food, you don’t want any food holding you emotionally hostage.

Until you have that down pat, forget the words “Do you have these pants in a smaller size?”

3. Find a regular consistent physical activity you enjoy. I know exercise is supposed to be about torture. That’s ok if you enjoy torture, no judgement here. Do something you can see yourself doing regularly in a year. Or five.

3a. Do not ramp up the volume/intensity of the said activity to accelerate weight loss beyond the level you see yourself comfortably doing long term. Did I hear you say “bootcamp”? Pfft.

4. You cannot fix self esteem issues with weight loss. The two have very little to do with each other.

4a. In the same vein, having weight loss as a dangling carrot in the future can derail your enjoyment of today. Don’t put off activities, clothes or happiness until you get thinner. See point 1.

5. It seems that the thoughts of weight loss frequently return when people are still longing for a six pack in spite of measurable improvements in their physical and mental health. This is where we hit a little snag.

Let’s say you start off in the obese category. Up to a certain point weight loss and health gains go together. Then you reach a state where your body is happy, healthy and well-nourished. To lose more subcutaneous fat from this point will not gain any further health benefit. In fact, you may dip down into negative territory. If you are body builder, dancer, gymnast or any athlete dependent on low body mass this is the risk you have to take. If you are a suburban mother of 2, disappointed she doesn’t look like her graduation photo any longer, you may be playing a dangerous game. If you still choose to continue down this path that’s cool. Your choice. It’s way harder to shift the happy-healthy weight so you may have to pull out all stops. Some of those deviate even further from the path to long term health and wellness. Obviously if you are naturally lean and small you have to flip this scenario 180 degrees. Getting massive past the point of diminishing returns may not be optimal for your body either.

When I see an obese patient I do not have an overwhelming desire to help them lose fat. To me their weight is nothing more but an external manifestation of serious internal issues.  I worry about their risk of heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and autoimmune conditions. I feel the same level of concerns for the skinny-fat: normal BMI with little muscle and obvious visceral adiposity.

Incredibly sexist and quite offensive to naturally thin women. However we don’t think twice when the ads are turned the other way around.

For a health-conscious and somewhat rebellious community we are still remarkably superficial and eager to conform to the current body image stereotype.


60 thoughts on “The weight loss conundrum

  1. I love this post!!! Thank you for writing it. I have lost my weight and have been stable for about 3 months. I never intend to gain it back and feel the challenge now is to maintain. I totally related to the part where you wrote about obese people – I too only see the medical side effects of being overweight. My blog focuses more on the health risks than the weight but unfortunately people won’t change unless they really want to. It breaks my heart to see so many of my friends morbidly obese and yet unable to stop overeating/eating badly – not because they are fat, but because the are literally killing themselves. I love your blog and will be back 🙂

  2. This is so awesome! At the end of the day, as long as you’re moving more and eating less you will lose weight. I have many clients who have had success with bodybuilding eating, Paleo, intermittent fasting, veganism, etc. Many of my clients are surprised when I tell them what to do exercise- and nutrition-wise, because it’s so simple. The industry has just made it way more complicated than it needs to be!

    • Hi Tara. Thanks for the comment. While I agree that just eating less may achieve weight loss I’m sure you and I know that that’s not the best way to go about it. What I am trying to say is that health is much more than just losing weight. I would hardly think that the typical bodybuilding diet is the key to wellness although no doubt people lose weight on it.

      • Oh, I agree. I should have clarified – if you eat healthier and feel healthier, you will naturally find the right size for your body shape, without having to starve yourself or stress over calories. When I was talking about a bodybuilding diet, I meant the 6-7 meals a day part, not the competition diet aspect. I personally love following this approach and I’ve never been healthier.

  3. Nice and sensible advice. Great nutrition is absolute key.
    One thing though and that is if our gut (stomach, small and large intestine) isn’t working right then particular foods we eat, (ie food allergens, food sensitivities) won’t digest properly and will cause trouble no matter how healthily we eat. This I believe does need special attention as the gut is the beginning of all the subsequent health issues.

  4. I love your sense of humour. Awesome.
    Sometimes I wish I could get out of my own head that has been programmed for years with philosophies that are totally warped. I agree with all your ‘start here’ points. I look forward to reading more.
    ZG from New Zealand

  5. Love this. You probably know quite well how I feel about this subject – I’ve recently had to send a message to someone who was on a medically controlled diet (and by that, I mean pre-packaged, standardised, synthetic crap) and got down to 175 pounds and then once she stopped very quickly got up to 217 pounds. Despite being infinitely healthier than when she was on the diet, she’s investing a monumental amount of negative energy in not seeing ‘that number’ on the scale anymore. It’s saddening as she’s doing all of the right things, yet she’s displaying anger and resentment – which her children are witnessing.

    What’s actually kind of ironic is at the moment I’ve recently discovered I’m really good at making cake, and decorating it :-/ All good for the people purchasing them, they’re purchasing them as a special treat for themselves – and I’d rather give them the best natural flavours possible, yet because I’m making them, everyone assumes I’m eating them! I’m a big girl, so I must be! *facepalm*

    I’m so glad that the medical industry has someone like you in it, who when they see a patient, only is concerned for their health. Thank you for this post 🙂

    • You and I have spoken about it for a while, haven’t we? Ugh, the frustration. Fitness industry is the worst because it perpetuates the stereotypes and then tries to sell them back to you. Keep at it, girl. You are probably in much better metabolic shape than a few stick-thin types we both know. (meow)

  6. Great post Anastasia!

    A parallel to this is the “do all of these things and you will live longer”. What many people don’t really understand is that “live longer” doesn’t really mean extending one’s life by 10 years if you get up each day and do HIIT till you drop 5x a week. In reality, I think that eating well, sleeping well and exercising in a manner that leaves you feeling uplifted are keys to living a “natural length” life with vitality.

    I also think the concept that “methods are many and principles are few” applies here. The principle is pursuing a lifestyle that yields vitality, and not just overt physical appearance. The methods to achieve this are numerous and not “one size fits all”.

    • “Vitality” is such a great word, isn’t it? It just shifts your focus from the external cues to that awesome feeling of life inside. Thanks Jim. Great comment.

  7. “Minimize the ‘healthy’ versions of unhealthy food” — what an excellent point! i’ve never heard it expressed like this before, but it makes all the sense in the world.

      • Oh no… and I did a post on chocolate muffins 🙂 I do agree though that we should stick to real food and not substitute with masses of low carb fake food. I just like to have a few recipes up my sleeve for when people come for dinner. As I’m treating this as a total lifestyle, I enjoy the odd treat myself – ie the chocolate muffins 🙂 My main concern is keeping blood sugar stable and not regaining weight.

        I think it is a constant learning curve – weight loss and maintaining – so I keep reading and learning.

      • Aiii… I’ve been asked to make coconut flour cupcakes for work as there are a bunch in there that are ‘going gluten free’ (I think there may be only one of them that are medically intolerant).

        It’s not meant to be a health food, and it’s not meant to be part of your diet everyday. Respect it for what it is.

        I’m getting paid to make them, certainly won’t be eating them!

  8. As misguided as this may be, I believe that most people who are trying to lose weight do not actually feel GREAT, or even good for that matter. I think lots of times people who don’t feel so wonderful tend to focus their efforts on their weight because they think that once that number on the scale is achieved their health with gain a new luster, as well. You don’t see people on drugs focusing on their weight, you see them enjoying themselves in whatever strange manner they want–because they feel great!
    Just my opinion, but nonetheless a fantastic article! Great job!

    • You can be metabolically sick at any size. And you can be metabolic healthy while overweight. I just think people focus on the wrong problem. It’s not the weight that’s the issue, it’s what caused it and the metabolic consequences of that.

  9. Love this post! I still struggle with the urge to see the number on the scale go down even though I’m healthier than I ever have been in the past. Sometimes you just need to be reminded of the true reason to eat healthy and workout. Thanks!

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  11. Great post. I agree. Especially the idea of separating weight loss from health, and choosing therapies accordingly.

    One thing that sticks out though. It’s the sense that the whole post is written from the point of view that weight loss is all about calories in calories out. It could be true, but there’s lots of evidence that says CICO isn’t the cause of weight gain, therefore isn’t the cause of weight loss. For example, here’s a list of 16 experimental studies that show low-carb to be superior than other diets for weight loss, as well as for several risk factors for various diseases. It’s from another doctor, Andreas Eenfeldt:

    While it looks like I’m gonna talk about low-carb, I’m actually pointing out that there are many other things that can prevent low-carb from working as it should, some of which can be medical in nature, therefore of great interest to a doctor such as you. These other things can prevent any strategy mentioned in your post – not just low-carb – from working for weight loss, even if they’re effective for health otherwise.

    Are you familiar with the condition called insulin-induced lipohypertrophy? It’s common in diabetics type 1. It’s basically extra fat tissue the grew over the years, most especially in the spots where they injected insulin, due to the action of insulin, most specifically chronically high insulin. Here is an example of a condition that can prevent any strategy – including low-carb – from working as it should, but only specifically on that spot. The rest of fat tissue should reduce as expected. Another condition is chronic low-grade inflammation, which then leads to insulin resistance, which then leads to higher insulin level, which then leads to fat tissue growth. This chronic low-grade inflammation could be due to an infection (probably chronic as well), which then means it should be treated with antibiotics, which means it won’t be fixed just by cutting calories or cutting carbs – nor by applying any of the strategies you mentioned above.

    The point I’m making here is that while I agree with everything you said, I also think that if none of it works in spite of doing our best to make it work, then we should start looking at other things that are obviously preventing it from working as it should. Because it should work. And if we’ve already tried everything and it still doesn’t work, then we’ve obviously missed something we don’t yet know about.

    Nice blog. I’ll visit more often.

    • Thanks Martin. Not sure what made you think I am talking about CICO. I have never prescribed to that nonsense and have written about it often. I don’t think people should be trying to “lose weight” at all, low carb or otherwise. I think they should be focusing on improving their health. Weight loss tends to follow.

      • I’m not so sure either why I got that feeling about CICO. Maybe I misunderstood. Forget I said anything about it. Anyway, I still agree with everything you wrote there.

  12. The most effective weight-loss strategy is to switch from cheap bear to expensive wine. It tastes better and you can only afford to drink much less. Of course, this is not an effective strategy for the wealthy, but hey, we all hate them anyway. 😉

    • Now you are talking, Aaron! I have discovered that strategy a long time ago and put it to use 4-5 times a week. Still waiting for results. Maybe I should try harder and do it more often? 😉

  13. Hi, Anastasia, and thanks for your wonderful blog! I’ve been perusing it and referring other readers to it, it’s really good info and provided in a very compelling way, with a lot of humor.

    As for weightloss, I kind of agree with what Martin Levac wrote. In this post you sort of make it sound like it all boils down to eating less and moving more. And you know this to be wrong. Of course I agree that one should pick an eating strategy that one can stick with in the long term and not just for a couple of months. And of course it should all be about high-quality food, getting rid of junk (processed crap) etc. And it should be about health, not so much a number on the scale. And yet low-carb has certainly proven effective for losing fat and maintaining muscle. And even more so in metabolically compromised individuals. So I don’t think a diabetic would achieve as much health and subsequently weight improvement by going vegan or fruitarian as they would by going low carb. Health issues and especially metabolic problems need to be addressed for weightloss to occur in a healthy manner.

    I just wanted to say your post sounds a little misleading this way.

    Thanks again for your great blog!

    • Hmmmm I am really perplexed. Just re-read my post and I seriously don’t know where I talk about moving more and eating less. The caption under the picture is obviously sarcastic (note to self: use my sarcasm font). And no, I don’t think that veganism or fruitarianism are good health strategies. Fish-eating vegetarians, on the other hand, can be a healthy bunch though. The whole point I am desperately (and clearly unsuccessfully, forgive me!) trying to make is this: you CAN lose weight by eating 5 Twinkies a day. But you SHOULDN’T because that’s really bad for you (newsflash!). When people focus on weight loss alone they tend to make poor choices. When people focus on health they do much better and they stick at it for longer. Ergo forget the six-pack, think of the fat inside your liver. Hope that helps.

        • Just to clarify: when I started out on my journey towards better health and also towards weightloss (that was 3 years ago), I was first and foremost thinking about my health issues. I have PCOS and had been overweight/obese since I was 3-4 years old. I also have bad knee arthritis plus a lot of diabetics in the family, on both sides. I knew I needed to make some changes to address my PCOS and get some weight off my knees. I already believed in the benefits of carbohydrate restriction. And I was prepared to wait for as long as it took. I wasn’t weighing or measuring myself, just going by how my clothes fitted. So yes, health was a top priority, but I knew carbohydrate restriction was the way to achieve better health. And it turned out I was right 🙂 But I did have metabolic issues that needed to be addressed.

      • So true. This is what my whole philosophy and blogging is about. Shifting your mindset to NOURISH yourself, then you begin to listen to your own intuition and find the right exercise & nutrition habits that work for your body, relax and (hey presto!) your body finds its natural, healthy happy shape.

  14. I liked this post, I think, but can’t get past the comment about not running if your boobs are too big. I’m a DDD. Why shouldn’t I be running? I don’t get it.

    • I think she was trying to say that a lot of women who are bigger busted try, and repeatedly try to run, hate it and continue to hate it, citing discomfort due to their boobs. If it’s so uncomfortable that it hampers their experience, there are other forms of exercise to try.

      I’m an E cup and yeah, it’s a *bit* annoying, but it doesn’t stop me. Mind you, I don’t really complain about it too much. Maybe you’re the same, you don’t complain, so it’s not an issue for you 🙂

      • Oh, okay, I guess I understand. I’ve never heard any runners complain that their boobs hurt from running, but I guess that’s because they stop running. I will say that the most expensive part of my running outfit is the bra, you do have to put some investment into getting the right one if you are a bigger gal, but I’m with you, it’s never stopped me from running.

  15. Thanks for this post, Anastasia. A much-needed reality-check for the impatient and vain (i.e., me).

    I’m 100% positive that if I could have stayed skinny eating crap, I would never have read this article, because why would I be looking at a nutrition blog? And I would eventually have the heart attack at 65 that’s pretty much a family tradition on my dad’s side, but it’s always a mild one, never fatal. I might have eventually switched from Tums to the new stronger alternatives, but other than that would have been happy to eat like I did in my 20’s forever – as long as I could have stayed skinny, but it turns out that I couldn’t.

    So yes, literally the *only* reason I started eating healthy was to lose weight, because I don’t like being fat. So when the weight loss slows or stops, and I’m still fat, I look for magic bullets and things to tweak and hidden solutions – and I ignore some basic facts that I shouldn’t, like: (a) I’m sleeping better; (b) I’m physically stronger & have more stamina; (c) I don’t feel groggy in the afternoons; (d) I don’t feel dizzy and panicky and desperate if I haven’t eaten for four hours; (e) my Tums habit is down from a roll a day to basically zero.

    These are all good things, and some of them are important, and they’re probably signs of more important good things going on below the surface. I have zero doubt that I’m healthier now than I was after a year of Weight Watchers, when I weighed ~50 lbs. less than I do now, but got nearly-passing-out dizzy if I stood up from the couch too fast, and had what felt like a low-grade cold for two months.

    I’m still vain, of course – I still really really want to stop being fat, and if I thought there was a shortcut that would work, I’d take it in a heartbeat. But your post reminds me that that’s short-sighted and shallow – the world-wide obesity epidemic isn’t a tragedy because too many people look icky, it’s a tragedy because too many people are sick and dying. I’m a little more OK with continuing to look icky when I consider the alternative.

    Thanks again for the perspective,

  16. Truer words were never spoken. Eat to be properly nourished and eat and exercise to be fit, happy and healthy. Then your cholesterol level – which may not matter anyway – and your appearance – which only matters cosmetically – will probably go in in the direction you want – very slowly perhaps, but surely more sustainably.
    When we are encouraging people to regain their health, and they are obsessing instead about their cholesterol or their weight, because they’ve lost faith in their own rounded, subjective reality in favour of a sketchy, two dimensional world of numbers… life by numerology… well, one feel’s like banging one’s head against the blog.

  17. Oh, as for the CICO misunderstanding; would the commenters agree that carbohydrate calories might matter? That excess calories from refined carbohydrate might be fattening, and that CICO is why athletes can get away with eating them?,
    In other words, that calories may not matter (much) overall, but that carb calories do, which is why one counts carbs?
    And even that voluntary reduction of energy intake when one replaces carbs with fat might account for success of low-carb diets, as well as, or instead of, the metabolic advantage (which is just an increase of calories out via thermogenesis)?

    • If I had a dollar for every time I have smacked my head on the desk reading about calories recently…

      Let’s be really clear on one thing – there is no calorie counting abacus in your body… there is nothing that keeps a running total of calories ingested, be it from fats, carbohydrates, or protein, or calories burned. “Calories” are a man-made construct. My t-shirt has calories, as does my cell phone, and the wooden bench down the park. Which one will make me fat if I eat too much of it?

      The reality is that your body tracks the flux of glucose, fructose, palmitic acid, lauric acid, methionine, and so on. It monitors/measures the flux in ATP – the energy currency of the body. All of the macronutrient substrates can be used to generate ATP, via different pathways. And the body has limited thresholds/capacities (which also vary by context), to dispose of those substrates through their different metabolic pathways.

      What the low carbers need to understand is that fructose and glucose are not equivalent to each other, even if they are “carbs”. The thresholds at which they “spill over” into problematic fates, are quite different. If you are an exerciser, you may be fluxing more glycogen through your liver than a sedentary individual, and fructose can be used to reload that glycogen. So the non-NAFLD individual, who exercises a lot, can dispose of more fructose – the molecule. Nothing to do with calories.

      The capacities for deaing with long-chain fats vary based on the other molecules fluxing through the system. You can dispose of more LCFA’s with less fructose going through your liver. Again, nothing to do with “calories”.

      When a person “cuts calories”, what are they doing in effect? Eating less fructose, glucose, LCFA’s, and so on, with differential effects from each of those. When they eat “too many calories”, again, they are eating more of the substrates. The fact that we can burn these substrates in a lab and assign an arbitrary number to the energy they release, has nothing to do with what happens in a biological system.

      So no, carbohydrate “calories” don’t count. What counts are the thresholds and capacities that your body has for dealing with certain substrates. If you run better by limiting the amount of fructose fluxing through your system, for example, then you are best served limiting those (carbohydrate) foods which are rich in fructose and fructans, and ignoring whatever number has been assigned to their ability to heat water.

    • You’re really asking _me_ to reply, right? 🙂 I don’t want to! Now that I look back at my first comment, I’m sorry I ever brought it up. It was just a feeling I had and I didn’t even need it to make my point cuz my point had absolutely nothing to do with it anyway. CICO is so dominant when we talk about nutrition, it’s ridiculous. Now I see that maybe the point I was trying to make just flew right by and now we’re stuck with CICO instead. Let’s not do this. This is a great post by Anastasia and I think we should stick to the topic which is absolutely not CICO. But if you really want to know what my position is on that. you can browse my blog and the links to the right, especially the one for a discussion forum where I establish my position every time I write a post in some thread there. And well, my position isn’t so cut and dried, it does have some nuances to it which would take too long to explain here anyway. A simple yes or no would just not do here.

      • Martin, I would agree. Nuances are healthy. My only concern was that opposition to CICO, being an essentially sane position, has to be careful to avoid logical inconsistency, which it easily falls into. And I totally agree with you about not derailing comments to a wonderful post (though any publicity is good publicity) any more. P.S. I don’t think yours were the only CICO comments..
        Jamie, When I defrost a ham in water, it’s already sucking calories out of my kitchen, (the temperature of the water is rising) before I even cook it. As Prof Feinman says, “there is no calorie receptor”.
        I’m no fan of fructose, however, if you were truly low-carb, then the difference between fructose and glucose might disappear.

  18. And to go with my own suggestion that we should stick to the topic, that’s exactly what I’m about to do right now by going over a few points Anastasia makes in more detail.

    #4a. I agree. I think obesity shouldn’t dominate our daily lives. We should ignore it and do what we want. Sure, it’s gonna be a bit more difficult to do some things but we can still do them anyway. We just have to adapt a bit to compensate. Anastasia’s comment about women with size C cups and above comes to mind here. I’m a man so I don’t understand that problem personally, but I’m a man so I understand the problem mechanically. Yeah, that’s a stereotype but I promise in my case it’s absolutely true. Anyway, you don’t have to run, right? I mean, it’s not like running gives you something special that nothing else can. I don’t think it does. So get a bike and ride instead. Ride everywhere you need to go. Need some butter and broccoli? Ride to the grocery store. And, you’ll get there faster! Weeeeeeee! Fast is good, fast is fun. If you’re really heavy and worried you’re gonna break the bike, get a sturdy bike. If it breaks, and you got a man around the house, make him useful for a change and let him fix it when it does break. Give him tools too. Pretend: Say it’s a gift because he’s just so special, he deserves it.

    I hate running personally. I always did. Even when I could run really really fast back in the day, I really really hated running. But there’s one thing I really liked, it’s lifting heavy things. I think it’s because I felt powerful. I didn’t really do it like in a gym or something but when I happened to do it, it gave me this feeling that I was strong. Because, well, I could lift a fridge and carry it up the steps without breaking a sweat. I just knew how. I was never big, 150lbs tops back then. But oh boy could I lift that fridge like the best of them. So, if you’re like me and you hate running because you think exercise is all about torture as Anastasia said, lift heavy instead. It’s gonna be torture alright, but it’s gonna make you feel powerful. It’s the best feeling. I promise. If you’re worried you’ll hurt yourself, just learn how to do it by browsing the web for instruction videos. The web is full of that. Try Youtube and type in “deadlift technique” and go on from there.

    Clothes. Well, I’m a man so I like to look at pretty ladies wearing pretty clothes. That’s about it for that. I’m pretty sure it’s the same for women. You like to look at handsome guys wearing nice clothes too. I remember a time when I didn’t know the first thing about my appearance. I wore jeans and tee shirts and I didn’t care. Then I started to wear different things like casual pants, street shoes, polos, etc. For some reason, it made me feel better. I didn’t change anything otherwise. Just my clothes. It sorta gave me this shot of self-esteem and I started to ride on that from then on. So yeah, clothes is a good way to get a shot of self-esteem then ride that high for a while.

    Activity, passion, incentive. I didn’t know the first thing about my health or fitness either back then. I was thin and I could ride my bike really really fast and I didn’t care. Then I got hooked on golf. Right around a time when I was now fat, slow, weak, and short of breath. And still poor, but that’s another story. That’s right, I’m a poor golfer. Not poor as in oh you poor golfer. Poor as in I ain’t got the money to do what I really wanna do. Anyway, so I got hooked on golf and now I wanted to get better at it, and that’s what started my journey down in nutrition, health and fitness hell. OK, I’m exaggerating a bit but the point is that I had a very big incentive to start learning all that stuff and in fact, that’s the reason I’m now posting a comment on Anastasia’s blog. While I can’t really tell you to get an incentive, that’s what got me started – and keeps me going – so really I can only tell you to get an incentive, something that will drive your desire to get healthy, because that’s the point here really.

    #4. It’s the relationship between self-esteem and weight specifically. I agree. And I think I explained it pretty good why already. However, I also believe it’s possible that what causes obesity can also affect our state of mind. This is a bit complicated and I might not explain it so well but please bear with me for a moment. There’s something good here, I promise. They are not associated sequentially, but in parallel. This means we can affect obesity, and our state of mind will also be affected at the same time. It also means we can focus just on our state of mind, and ignore our weight. Does it make you feel better? That’s what’s important here. Dr William Davis makes a good case that wheat might be involved here. On the forum I frequently peruse, there’s many people who experienced this mind fog that lifted once they cut carbs. Something like that happened to me too. The point is that besides all those things we can do to improve our self-esteem, there might something else we can do that will make those other things work better. Sure, I’m talking about carbs, most especially wheat. But please, don’t let it go down this road, alright. Let’s say it’s all the other things that are really important, and if this little bit can help, then fine do it but don’t get stuck on that. And keep in mind what I said about incentive. It is still what keeps me going, not the knowledge I acquired due to that incentive.

    Pfft, that was really long for a comment. But that’s me. I go on and on when I do.

    • I agree with you on clothes; just doing up my own buttons instead of pulling on a T-shirt first thing in the morning is, I sometimes feel, one of the things that has made me tough enough to make it this far, and kept me proud enough to get what I want out of life, pretty much.
      I once watched a local Police video of the days arrests. Scores of males. Only one wore a button-down shirt, and he was a male escort.
      The clothes may in fact maketh the man.

      • It occurred to me that dressing up and looking pretty is associated with special occasions. And maybe those special occasions are obstacles in and of themselves because we’re fat, and our self-esteem is too low to face the world. It got me thinking. Just invent special occasions instead of going out to official ones that present themselves. It could be anything but don’t just lie about it and pretend you dressed up for a completely fictitious occasion you just made up on the spot. That’s ridiculous. Make it real like a dinner date or movie date or even a stay-at-home-and-watch-what’s-on-tonight date. Then dress up for it but you know it’s not for that occasion you do it, it’s for your self-esteem. You’re just using this special occasion as an excuse to dress up, and that’s going to make you feel good. You’re basically flipping things around. Instead of letting the occasion prevent you from going because you don’t feel too good about yourself just now, you’re using the occasion as an excuse to feel good about yourself. And then when you’re there, well, enjoy it cuz isn’t that what it’s all about?

        It’s an idea.

        • It is a great idea, I make sure I put on something nice several times a week just to feel good about myself. It doesnt matter if I am only going to the farmers market, that little boost in confidence is worth it.

  19. Thank you Anastasia,
    A great post. I have been weighed constantly since birth: I have never been slim. So I have an unhealthy habit of stepping on scales all too often, it’s like crack to me. However I have been grain free, milk free, pufa free, and sugar free (as much as one can be) for over a year now, and the health benefits simply astound me. I believe it’s a lifestyle change for me, learning to say no, learning to give of my talents and reconnect, digging in the soil, turn off devices, laugh, play, cook for my family, and seize the day (this list is not exhaustive). I have lost weight, not enough for the conventional corner of my mind, but with input such as this post I am gradually rethinking what it is to be me. Thanks again, we as a species waste so much energy on all this.

  20. i agree with pretty much all you wrote, apart from women with generous proportions stopping running.
    (this is purely a joke for my own benefit btw, no flaming please)
    will be sharing this on FB as soon as i can.
    the number of people i have known who were unhappy with their weight, successfully lost weight but did not get happy with their lives or self esteem is scary.
    and they’ve often ended up worse off anyway healthwise too.
    identify the real problem and solve that

    • I got quite the laugh from the running comment too, I have even had avid runners lecture me about how running is the best thing in the world. Well, running is not that great when a girl can get knocked unconscious by her own appendages! 🙂

  21. Hi Anastasia, this right here has been troubling me greatly: “Then you reach a state where your body is happy, healthy and well-nourished. To lose more subcutaneous fat from this point will not gain any further health benefit. In fact, you may dip down into negative territory.”

    I lost 65 pounds over a two year period by eating whole food, in season and as local as possible, favoring pastured meat, eggs and dairy and avoiding veg oils. I was eating intact grains for a year (wheatberries, brown rice, etc.) and quit grains completely the second year. The weightloss continued the same but I lost several inches in my midsection rather quickly.

    So here’s what’s troubling me. I’ve kept this loss off for a year and a half, literally gaining and losing the same 6 pounds over and over and occasionally dipping lower. Am I at this point where I will be harming myself by losing more? I am still very heavy, at 255 pounds, 5’ll (middle aged female). My body seems to want to stay here. I don’t have any health problems and never have, I’d hate to cause them by forcing the loss with fasts or restricted calories. I’ve read elsewhere that dropping any weight at all in mid-life is harmful. So maybe I’ve already done harm. I would be interested in any thoughts you have about this.

  22. ” I’ve read elsewhere that dropping any weight at all in mid-life is harmful.”
    I have 2 thoughts about this – weightloss is a symptom of many diseases. so cause and effect may be confounded in these stats; and it’s also an effect of the smoking habit, and amphetamines, so ditto.
    And, given the types of diets that most people use, malnutrition could account for this.
    I’ve never seen evidence that losing weight by eating and living better is harmful. I tend to doubt it could be.

    • Thank you for your reply. I think I will just continue what I’m doing, focusing on health rather than weight loss, and if this is where I stay I may have to accept and be happy with that.

  23. I agree that focusing on the scales often keeps us from focusing on our own health.

    To me, the interesting question is “Why am I still constantly hungry even though I’m carrying lots of fat mass?” Once we phrase it that way, it’s clear that the problem most likely has to do with either something we’re eating, something we’re not eating but should be, or some metabolic condition of our bodies (sickness, infection, dysfunction, etc.)

    Focusing on the number on the scales allows us to skip right past those questions and blame it all on a lack of willpower…”I’d have lost that last ten pounds if I just had more willpower…” You can’t will your way out of a poor diet or a disease!


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