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Jeff Halevy

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My Mission to End Weight Loss

Posted: 04/13/2012 12:40 pm

Weight loss must come to an end. You heard that right: this gym owner, public health advocate, and personal trainer wants people to stop losing weight immediately. Weight loss doesn't make us any healthier, and the prospects of any one dieter successfully losing weight are dismal at best.

Shocking, huh? That's because "weight loss" is probably one of the greatest red herrings perpetrated against American health. If it was truly healthy to simply weigh less, why shouldn't we all move to the moon, where we don't have to deal with gravity's harsh revelation every time we step on a scale?

Because nearly everyone reading this knows that, unless you're a weight class dependent competitive athlete, "weight loss" is not our goal. When we say we want to "lose 10 pounds," we really mean we want to be less fat -- right? The weight itself is in fact a distraction, a distraction most of us unfortunately buy into.

I have often asked clients with rigid weight loss goals that if they could have the body of their dreams, but in fact still weigh the same amount when they step on the scale, would they be happy with the result. I have yet to hear someone say no, that the number is that important to them. We care about how we look and how we feel, not about an abstract number thrown at us by a tool used to measure the effects of gravitational theory.

In fact, any time we use weight to measure health, we create an opportunity to create false positives and miss less-easily detected red flags. The recent study on BMI's inaccuracies is a prime example of this, with participants who had normal fat levels, but higher weights, getting miscategorized as obese, and those with high fat levels, but reasonable weights, getting mislabeled normal.

Using weight as the sole barometer for fat loss and health improvement, as the gross majority of us do, is not only inaccurate but can also be downright dangerous -- not only in missed diagnoses for increased risk, as in the case of BMI, but in the process of weight loss itself. An acute focus on weight loss fuels poor choices such as crash diets, detoxes, and cleanses. Usually "cardio" is also thrown in the mix as well, with a net effect of combined loss of water, (way too much) muscle and fat. So, for instance, at the end of a 10-pound loss over one week, I would be surprised if more than two pounds of that loss were fat -- and even more surprised if that loss was sustained for more than a few months, let alone weeks!

So if not weight, then what? Lifestyle. And I'm not quite asking anyone to ditch the scale; as I stated above, it is a great crude tool. But a more refined approach, with a focus on qualitative versus quantitative measurements, in my opinion -- and with plenty of anecdotal evidence that affirms this -- yields not only the best sustainable fat loss results, but more importantly the best sustainable health results.

I'm a big fan of Michael Pollan for many reasons, but the simplicity (and brevity) of his approach, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." has an analogous echo here. I have seen the greatest successes come about from a simple focus on healthy lifestyle, by answering this question, honestly, daily:

"Did I eat well today, and did I move enough?"

I know, I know -- it's an oversimplification... but what if I told you my most obese client to date shed more than half his body weight by simply answering that question honestly (and avoiding the scale altogether, mind you)?

"Healthy lifestyle" will never be as sexy as "losing 20 pounds," just as sound investing will never be as sexy as winning the Powerball Lottery, but we all know which has drastically higher odds of yielding the results we want. However, weight loss just isn't working. Poor lifestyle is what got us into the mess we're in. The "mess" got us obsessed with weight loss. Weight loss is a distraction that, for many reasons, keeps us stuck where we are, and I believe it has conclusively failed (what was it that Einstein said about doing the same thing over and over?). As soon as we stop losing weight and, instead, start increasing the quality of our lifestyle choices, I believe we'll be leaner, healthier, and happier people -- for life.

What do you think the solution to obesity is: a focus on weight loss, or on a healthy lifestyle?

VOTE

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