If like 2/3 of the Australian population you're either overweight or obese, are you doomed to a lifetime of poor health unless you lose those extra 10, 20 or 30kg? The short answer, NO!
As a society we've come to associate the increasing number on the scales with declining health and higher mortality rates. The weight of recent evidence suggests that perhaps we don't fully understand the big picture in terms of the relationship between weight and health. For example, almost all population based studies show that overweight or moderately obese persons live at least as long as people in the normal weight category! Many people then argue that if this group lives as long as their leaner counterparts surely overweight and obese people are comparatively less healthy, right? Wrong. When we take a closer look at the specific effects of fitness, physical activity, diet quality and weight cycling we see that these factors are more relevant than weight.
So what does this mean in practical terms? In essence this means you can make significant health improvements WITHOUT focusing on weight.
In terms of nutrition, it's about getting back to basics. Choose a varied diet, eat regularly and include plenty of wholegrain breads and cereals, vegetables, fruit, dairy and meat. Recognise that it's normal to enjoy cake, chocolate and wine. Eat mindfully, tap into your hunger and fullness levels, and avoid restrictive diets. These behaviour changes will allow you to settle at your most comfortable healthy weight. For some people, this will translate to weight loss, for others it may mean a change in body composition without weight changes, and for many it will require acceptance that your healthiest most comfortable weight will not be the 'goal weight' you had in mind (and that's perfectly okay).
While some of these concepts may sound simple, they are certainly not easy to fully embrace. I can only recommend that you seek help from your personal support team (health professionals, family and friends included), make gradual changes, and be kind to yourself. We are given only one body, so it seems absolutely absurd that many people spend the better part of their lives dissatisfied with their unique shape and size. Let go of the idea that weight loss equals health, and remember that your best weight is the one at which you are living the healthiest life you actually enjoy.
You can find some great information here from Linda Bacon- one of the pioneer's of the "health at every size" movement.
Megan one of the Dietitians at the Movement Team and is passionate about challenging the way society approaches dieting. She has clinical interests in weight management, chronic disease, and eating behaviour. Megan also has experience in research and aged care.