Is January really "Weight Loss Month" or is this just a marketing ploy and media hype? It's probably a little bit of both. While advertisers definitely push the concept of weight loss and dieting in the month that follows the December holidays, it's also true that many people are focused on "losing holiday pounds" or at least keeping off the weight that often snuggles onto our hips, belly, and thighs during the cold winter months.
At vitarock.com, we've also been blogging about weight loss in the recent weeks. Dr. Karol wrote a series of posts explaining why many diet plans are flawed and what you can do to effectively reach a healthy weight, while I've been highlighting popular herbal extracts that can be beneficial supplements if your goal is to slenderize your figure.
But what's the real scoop on dieting, weight loss, and the media obsession with sweeping people into a whirlwind of anti-fat propaganda? Should you even pay attention to any of it?
A Balanced Approach to Weight Loss
While I strongly advocate for people to focus on enjoying life in a healthy way, I also understand that being overweight is a real issue for many people. And it's not merely a physical challenge—it's also psychological, emotional, and energetic.
It's important to acknowledge this, engage with the individual's need to lose weight in order to restore health, and offer as much psychological and physical support as possible. Being supportive means helping to maintain a person's motivation for taking charge of his or her health as well as nourishing and healing the body throughout the process.
Being supportive also means meeting people where they're at, having compassion for how they feel, accepting that it may take some time for their body image and perspectives to change, and being willing to work together with him or her rather than preaching ideologies that may sound like lofty goals for someone who feels very far from where and who they want to be.
Some people struggle with obesity while others are just a few pounds unhealthy. It varies across individuals and there's no universal measure of ideal weight. While the BMI (Body Mass Index) is helpful, it also has its limitations.
I usually tell people that if you feel energetic, happy, and healthy without the use of stimulants such as coffee to get you through the day, then you're a healthy weight. However, if your digestion is sluggish, you're constantly exhausted, and you feel bloated often, then it's time to address the issues and revitalize your body.
Weight Loss from a Holistic Perspective
Holistic health practitioners often have strong or mixed opinions about supporting people in their efforts to lose weight. Most of us discourage the focus (which often becomes dangerously obsessive) on weight loss and instead we foster a more sustainable, positive, and effective approach.
We would much rather encourage people to adopt a holistic perspective on health that encompasses cultivating a loving self-image, learning how to make healthy food choices, and embracing physical activity for the fun of it. In taking this approach, losing weight is a side benefit rather than the primary goal and this is psychologically liberating. Healthy minds foster healthy bodies of all shapes and sizes.
As an herbalist, holistic nutritionist, and yoga teacher, my perspective on weight loss extends beyond what the scale reads. I believe that a fixation on weight loss represents a much deeper issue. Not unlike any other strongly held belief or self-defined need, dieting can become an addiction. And all addictions are restrictive as well as self destructive.
When dieting becomes a way of life or when it becomes so important that it shadows other aspects of life, it's psychologically stifling and this kind of mental rigidity can actually perpetuate weight gain. It can also lead to depression.