It’s crazy, isn’t it, how what we are being told we need to do to lose weight and gain health, isn’t necessarily what’s going to help us. Expectations are set by certain industries and media outlets, that make us think we need to follow a certain regime to gain a certain result - and if we don’t, we’re doing it wrong. Let me try and explain what I mean. The current ideology is that if you eat less and exercise more, you will re-establish your health. Is this really addressing what’s wrong, though?
Let’s take the television show The Biggest Loser. Sure, it’s entertaining and may motivate people to snap into a mindset that they need to do something about their weight. However, shows like this only set unrealistic expectations on what is required to lose weight. Counting calories, weighing every meal, restricting food intake - is this healthy? Forcing exercise to the point of mental and physical exhaustion, sometimes nausea, blood, sweat and tears - is this healthy? After people watch this show, do they want to try and lose weight? Is this actually what needs to be done, to become healthy? No, it’s not.
You cannot exercise your way to health. Exercise does not address nutrient deficiencies or systemic inflammation (it can, but not entirely). Someone’s lack of exercise is not the reason they are sick, or overweight. Exercise certainly does help, but it is a small piece of the puzzle. Yet time and time again, we are being told that the reason our society has gotten to this point of illness and obesity is because we do not go to the gym.
Instagram is flooded with quotations of “no pain, no gain”, “the only barrier between you and your health is your gym”, “tears of pain is worth the gain” and “willpower is all you need”. As much as I support the inclusion of exercise and understand it’s a VITAL part of acquiring health, wellbeing, reducing stress (NOT ALWAYS), improving insulin sensitivity etc, I believe prioritising it as the main objective to acquiring health is ineffective. Also, forcing ourselves to exercise because “if you don’t feel pain, you won’t receive a gain” can be just as stressful to the body as not having done the exercise.
Willpower is NOT all you need. The idea that eating less and exercising more, which has been drilled into our brains by various industries, is not what you need to re-establish your health. We have been conditioned and introduced to foods such as excessive added sugars and processed flours that we are addicted to and have caused havoc in our bodies. Will forcing myself to leave the house at 5am before work when I really don’t want to, just so I don’t feel guilty that I didn’t go, help rectify the damage from these foods if I am still consuming them? You need a balanced nutrient dense diet, you need to reset your hormones, you need to take your body out of an inflammatory state, you need to reduce stress. You need to consume enough water and get enough sleep. And this is just the very beginning.
Eat a nutrient dense, whole food balanced diet. This needs to be the primary objective to achieving health and wellbeing. Other contributing factors cannot achieve the same results, nor have their mechanisms useful without the foundation of diet being established first.
With that being said, weight loss goes much further than your dinner plate. The culture of dieting, food obsession and cutting out food groups has a lot to answer for in terms of why we cannot shift weight but that's another article for another day. Before I say something I regret, I'll better articulate my words on this topic. It is a big one. Stay tuned.