Nutritionist Opinion: We Need to Stop Focusing on Weight LossBy Alexis Poole
So here goes. This is me: my most vulnerable, exposed body. I don’t have visible abs, but I guarantee I can probably out plank a few people who do. Not to mention that my cardiovascular fitness and general health is pretty good. And that’s the point. My outer appearance is by no means an indication of what lies on the inside – be it my strength or my health.
Truth is: I am so frustrated with the obsession around weight loss, trust me, I’ve spent many years fretting over how to achieve my ‘ideal’ weight, and guess what? I never got there, or so I thought. We’re lead to believe that once we’re at a smaller weight we’ll be so much happier. I couldn’t have got this more wrong. At my smallest, I was probably my unhappiest and, my friends will also tell you that I didn’t go out, I was antisocial, I didn’t drink and the gym was my life.
With social media at the forefront of what influences our perception of ourselves, it’s hard not to compare the aesthetics. But because it’s all on the outside, do you ever consider if who you see on social media are happy, are they healthy, are they having fun? There’s just so much more to life than judging other people, judging yourself and being unhappy with how you look.
And it’s not just what we see on our screens that pushes ‘weight loss’ as the be all and end all. Even in my own gym I have been asked countless times what my weight loss or weight goal is. If this was asked a few years back, the question probably would have crushed me and I would have thought they’re only asking because I have a wobbly belly and probably look like I could shift a few kilos. And so recently when asked this I made a point to highlight how one can be in a gym and be exercising purely for enjoyment (shock!) or stress relief. Personally I workout because I really really love exercise (call me weird but I do) and it helps me stay healthy.
And just because I’m a Nutritionist (a legit qualified one, with a 3-year degree behind me and a few years work experience, not an online diploma or self proclaimed health guru/wellness coach) does not mean I have to be skinny. Nutritionists tend to do the course because we love food and we’re interested in how it can influence disease prevention. I’d be lying if I said my diet was super healthy all of the time. There is nothing I love more than going to new restaurants with friends, catching up or usually in my case getting life advice, over a delicious meal and a few G&Ts or a bottle of wine. Quality time spent with friends is what gets me through the hustle, stressful and fast paced London lifestyle. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Our bodies change, and that’s ok. Holding on to those jeans that used to fit you a few years back is only going to make you more unhappy if you’re not that size anymore. And so many factors will influence this. Just growing up will mean your body goes through changes that could influence your weight. I’ve recently been following blogger and midwife Clemmie Hooper who’s posted about her post baby body and even though I’ve not had children yet, I think her message is so right. Why after having a baby do mothers race to get back to an ideal weight or spend years feeling unhappy with their bodies. HELLO YOU’VE JUST CREATED A HUMAN BEING! That is bloody amazing. Women should be celebrated for what their bodies can do and not shamed for having a tum.
And on a personal level, last year I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and my goodness has my body changed. I now buy clothes on the basis of whether they can deal with the bloat or whether they’ll be comfortable to wear the whole day in the office. When it’s bad, it’s really bad. Last year a friends family put on an amazing Greek barbecue, and because I hadn’t quite figured out what I can/can’t eat, I ate all the food. Afterwards I had to go straight to bed and lie down because I was in so much pain, missing a night out dancing with my friends. The bloat gets so bad people have thought I’m pregnant and, on a few occasions have stood up on the tube for me. Thank you kind people of London, it’s not your fault I truly did look pregnant. And when diet is a big part in managing how I feel on a day to day basis, whether a meal is going to make me lose weight or not is the least of my priorities. There is just so, so much more to think about … and that’s the whole point of nutrition.
Today, I am content with how I look. I just want to show people that even though on the surface my Instagram pictures probably make me look smaller than I am, I just know what clothes suit my shape. People have their own stories, their own relationship with food and the way they look. Don’t judge, be happy, and please don’t think the only way to be healthy is to diet and lose weight.