Just lose weight? Why it’s not that easy and it shouldn’t matter

Despite our progress in body positivity, neutrality and inclusion, weight stigma is still prevalent. It is one of the forms of prejudice that we continue to tolerate in our society. Fatphobia is the prejudice towards overweight people and their perceived moral failure.

We’ve all heard it before — “just lose weight.” As if there’s only one ideal weight to reach, and if you’re not reaching that goal, you’re not doing it right. This mindset puts too much pressure on the scales and teaches people that losing weight is the key to self-esteem. Discrimination based on weight is more than just whispers or sideways glances; there are tangible implications for a person’s health and treatment.

Weight is just another fact about a person’s body, like hair color or height. Why do we allow a number to be so important to our well-being? And what if we just don’t?

Why fad diets keep failing and always will

When people say “just lose weight,” it’s condescending and often misinformed. The speaker assumes that the person’s weight is a deficiency entirely within their control and needs to be corrected.

Many weight loss diets don’t work and sometimes lead to greater weight gain in the long run, especially if someone diets frequently, stops and then starts again. This happens for several reasons. First, when your body loses fat or muscle, it naturally produces more ghrelin, the appetite hormone, also known as the “hunger hormone.” This will make you feel hungrier, which will make it harder to lose weight. Your metabolism also slows down when you’re on a low-calorie diet, which means you burn fewer calories.

I’m not saying all diets are bad. However, diets often become unrealistic standards that are either unachievable or unsustainable. Dieting will have varying success rates for everyone. Other factors besides food can make weight loss easier for some people and more difficult for others.

Alex Tihonov/Getty Images

4 Things Affecting Your Weight You Can’t Always Control

Many people believe that a person’s weight is completely under their control. But if that were the case, everyone would click their heels and have their ideal body. There are things going on in your body that can cause weight gain or make losing weight difficult.

  • Genetic: According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 50 genes that have implications for your weight. They can influence your appetite, metabolism, and body fat distribution. Studies suggest that genetics can also predispose someone to being overweight. A popular approach to body weight is the set point theory, which states that our body has a base weight range based on our DNA. And our bodies have biological controls that will keep us within that range. People naturally have different set points, which explains the diversity of body shapes and sizes.
  • Hormonal changes: Throughout a person’s life, the body goes through distinct hormonal cycles: puberty, pregnancy and menopause. Menopause is a time of extreme change. Your body uses energy differently. Your body shape and composition may change and you may gain weight more easily. You can’t control that; it’s a natural cycle that your body goes through.
  • Medical conditions: Sometimes bodily processes can affect your ability to lose weight, no matter if you are doing everything right. Chronic inflammation, hypothyroidism, and polycystic ovary syndrome are just a few of the various medical conditions that can cause you to gain weight or make it difficult to lose weight. Certain medications, such as diabetes medications, can also cause weight gain.
  • Sleep: Lifestyle and work schedules can interfere with a good night’s rest. Inconsistent and interrupted sleep patterns are linked to weight gain. A 2019 study found that participants with less variable sleep schedules were more likely to lose weight.
  • Environmental factors: Your social and economic background can also affect your weight, including the type of food you have access to, the resources available in your community, and whether sedentary lifestyles are prevalent in your area.

Why we should shift from a focus on weight to overall health

Historically, larger bodies were preferred and seen as a symbol of wealth. Then society developed theories based on eugenics and racism that vilified different body types. We need another shift in understanding body weight.

There has already been progress in dismantle the focus on body mass index, or BMI, which was our main indicator of a healthy weight, although it is not an accurate measure of body fat and overall health. Being healthy is not automatically linked to your weight. Your body shape and weight are details about you, not things that define you or should influence the type of care you receive.

Let’s talk about what would happen if we stopped valuing the number on the scale so much.

Woman looking out the window while sitting in a doctor's examination room.

The Good Brigade/Getty Images

Better health care

Our health policies are based on the assumption that being overweight is bad for your health, that people can lose weight and that is the only way to improve their health. Research now suggests that these assumptions are not empirically supported. Weight stigma in health care is a two-pronged problem: the first is the anti-fat attitude of some physicians; the second is the avoidance of health care by those who experience discrimination.

The American Psychological Association says that 40% of American adults have experienced weight or size stigma. People with larger bodies are often discriminated against in the medical field and categorized by their weight. This ultimately leads to inadequate medical and preventive care. Studies have shown that overweight women are more likely to die from breast and cervical cancer.

Some said doctors ignored the symptoms and instead based their diagnosis on their weight. Bad experiences in medical offices can cause someone to avoid medical care in the future.

Less disordered eating

Many fall victim to the mindset that shaming someone’s weight is hard love and what they need to motivate themselves to lose weight. But it’s not. Sizeism can be emotionally damaging and seriously affect someone’s mental health. Weight stigma is linked to unhealthy eating behaviors.

A 2021 study found that weight stigma is significantly associated with eating disorderswho can have long-term health consequences which are not distance related to weight.

A widespread change in ideology would result in better medical care and fewer cases of eating disorders. People would be healthier and happier because they would have the resources they deserve.

Too long; did not read?

Grossophobia and sizeism exist – sometimes in the people closest to us. Even with the highlighted issues with BMI and the way we think about body weight, they are still commonplace.

Remember that you can be healthy without focusing on losing weight. We all come in different shapes and sizes, and that’s okay. Think of your health as one big puzzle – your weight is just a small piece of you. Focusing on putting one piece together won’t solve the puzzle.

Remember to set realistic goals that you can achieve, and be sure to approach your body in a holistic way that benefits your health. Your body deserves to be nourished, no matter what.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

Just lose weight? Why it’s not that easy and it shouldn’t matter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to top