The Talbot Centre

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The truth about dieting & weight loss

We are a society obsessed with weighing less. And it is costing us not only in dollars (640 million to be exact) but emotionally and physically. And all of this in the name of health. But is it making us healthier? Keep reading to find out the two most important things you need to know about weight.

Dieting predicts future weight gain… not weight loss

A study done by a professor at the University of Melbourne looking at 31 long term diet studies, showed that diets actually cause people to gain weight. Surprised? Maybe you’ve been on a diet and are familiar with the start of a diet: feel good, lose 5 kilos, only to put it back on and more.

This is often due to our metabolism slowing (your body becomes inefficient at burning fuel) but also because restricting intake directly correlates with binge eating and having an all or nothing mindset around food. Let me explain. Say I wake up tomorrow and tell myself I am not allowed to have any chocolate. Sure maybe I could last a day or two but by the end of the next day my desire for chocolate would be so great that I wouldn’t be able to resist. Is this me failing a diet or the diet failing me? I think the latter.

Diet rules set us up to think more about particular foods than we normally would and usually leads to us overeating. I call this “mental dieting”. Even if we’re not actively restricting our eating, thinking that we can’t have something is enough to trigger overeating.

What you can do to move away from a diet mentality

  • Become aware of what triggers your diet. Is it body dissatisfaction, wanting validation, in response to a comment, or society ideals? If we know what is driving the desire to diet we can then work on strategies to manage this.
  • Follow body positive social media accounts (such as our Instagram page!)
  • Reflect on how dieting has interfered with your life, socially, emotionally, physically.
  • Let go of the tools of dieting. This means deleting the calorie counting apps, throwing away the scales, discarding your fitbit, and tossing away diet books and anything else that controls what you eat and how much you exercise.
  • Let go of the fantasy that when you weigh Xkg you will have all your problems will be solved.

People in larger bodies can be healthy: weight does not equal health

Everywhere we turn we are bombarded by our society’s thin ideal. It goes without saying there is a huge amount of weight stigma for those living in a larger body. This affects many aspects of life from getting a check up at the doctors and being told to lose weight repeatedly, to having to shop at a different store because your favourite one doesn’t stock over size 16. This is simply discriminating against size and heralding the perception that to be in a smaller body is better. And we know that from a health perspective this is not true.

Studies show that over 50% of ‘overweight’ adults are metabolically healthy. This indicates that we need to consider factors other than weight when determining someones health. Factors such as sleep, stress, social networks, movement, joy in life, and relationship with food are all important in understanding someone’s health status.

People of all sizes and shapes can engage in healthy behaviours. This is what the Health at Every Size movement is all about, finding ones own individual health separate from weight.

How to look beyond weight

  • Accept your size and others size. Appreciate diversity and learn to see beauty in someones character rather than their body.
  • Trust internal systems (hunger, fullness, appetite) to support your body in finding its natural size.
  • Find an enjoyable way to move that is not about controlling your weight.
  • Be critical of what you read and see. Many weight loss studies are only done over 6 months – 2 years. This does not show long term results.

If you would like to learn more about how to establish healthy behaviours within a Health at Every Size framework please get in touch.