Why's it so hard to lose weight?
Why don’t diets work? We’ve heard they don’t work (and we intuitively know they don’t work), but until we know why, we’re vulnerable to the “authoritative” messages assuring us that “Diets don’t fail… people fail.” I hate this. I hate that we’re lured along, told lies, then blamed for our failure. Hopefully this info (from Health At Every Size chapter 3) will equip you like it’s equipped me. But first… why does it matter?
Believing the science about our biology is the first step to letting go of dieting. We’re told it’s irresponsible NOT to diet. But if we know how God made our bodies to take care of us and resist weight loss, then we can give ourselves permission to get off the hamster wheel.
Counter to everything we've ever been told... if anything is irresponsible when it comes to stewarding our time, energy, body and resources… it’s dieting for weight loss.
This also means that we can stop blaming ourselves. We’re taught a “calorie in < calorie out” philosophy. "Burn more calories than you eat and you’ll lose weight." "Eat the right way and you’ll lose weight." It’s up to us to exhibit enough self-control, plan ahead, pray hard enough, be faithful enough, be focused enough, and all that jazz. Then we’ll lose weight. All the responsibility, control and blame gets put on us. In future posts we’ll zoom out and see how weight and health have erroneously become a solely individual issue. There are actually lots of factors outside of our control that affect our health and weight.
That’s why the diet industry is raking in over $70 billion dollars a year. They’ve got repeat customers. We keep coming back because we know that we can do it. We can try again. There’s one of these diets that’ll work. "As long as I can make it work. I'll just try harder this time. I'll be even more committed." But they don’t. Not for very long at least. And in the end, probably not at all. It can be a harsh truth, but we need to face it.
Losing weight once and for all (and for our health) through dieting and lifestyle changes doesn’t work.
We can take health promoting steps, but we can’t sustain weight loss below our natural set point range in the long run. We can’t decide on a weight we want to be and make our bodies be that. Those of us that try, are wasting our lives striving towards weight loss and probably walking down the road to an eating disorder.
When we understand how our body is taking care of us by resisting weight loss, we can rightly let go of the blame that we’ve shouldered for so long.
If our bodies can wrest control from us, then they’ve proven themselves capable of overseeing and monitoring our weight.
“The fact that your body can so powerfully resist weight loss is a sign that it can control your weight, much better than you can- meaning you don’t have to fight your desires through conscious control. There is no need to watch your food intake or force yourself to 'work out'”
- Health At Every Size
Remember setpoint range? The range that our body’s weight naturally settles at and works to keep us within. That range moves upwards the more we diet. That’s because our body is increasingly prepared for the next famine (diet). It's on high alert and already taking steps to protect us. Our body is choosing fat stores over starvation. Our body isn’t as protective of that upper setpoint range boundary. Why? Because it’s not as dangerous. That’s why it’s easier to gain weight than to lose it.
God designed our bodies to be able to live with more than enough fat and weight, but we can't live if we don’t have enough.
God gave our bodies protective measures at both ends of our setpoint range to maintain our optimal weight. He also made those same bodies incredibly adaptable and hard working. Jesus came to give us life... abundant life. From the very beginning of humankind God created our bodies to be able to sustain that abundant life. We talk about being a vessel for Holy Spirit (true!) and vessels to be used for good (true!) and vessels carrying out God's will on Earth (true!). But I rarely hear people talk about our body being designed to carry and sustain life.
It’d be a fail on God’s part if our bodies needed so much micromanaging that we gave up our lives in order to manage it.
So our bodies are looking out for us without us having to force it to do its job. So much happens unconsciously. How many times a day do you have to consciously think “Beat heart. Keep beating”? It’s the same when it comes to our food. We can listen to our body, give it what it’s calling for and then move on with our lives.
So let’s take a look at how God designed our bodies to take care of us. Here’s some of the nitty gritty biological mechanisms that God built into us to help us maintain our setpoint range (aka resit weight loss). Here's what we know happens in our bodies when we diet. This short list is taken from Health At Every Size...
Slows the rate at which your body burns calories.
Increases your body’s efficiency at wringing every possible calorie out of the food you do eat so you digest food faster and get hungrier quicker.
Causes you to crave high-fat foods.
Increases your appetite.
Reduces your energy levels (so even if you could burn more calories through physical activity you don’t want to).
Lowers your body temperature so you’re using less energy (and are always cold).
Reduces your ability to feel “hungry” and “full,” making it easier to confuse hunger with emotional needs.
Reduces your total amount of muscle tissue (and you may know that a pound of muscle burns more calories than a pound of fat).
Increases fat-storage enzymes and decreases fat-release enzymes.
See how all of this makes it hard to keep with your diet and lose weight? How much of that is in your conscious control? Does it still make sense to blame yourself? God cares about everything about us. Based on how He created us, does it seem like God is really concerned with us losing weight? Why are we?