Our modern society has an over-inflated concentration on weight loss. The global weight loss industry was valued at $254.9 billion in 2021 and this is projected to reach $377.3 billion in 2026. And yet, over 70% of adults over the age of 18 are overweight or obese in Australia alone. Despite the billions of dollars being poured into the weight loss industry, we are getting more overweight and more undernourished.
The slow rot of the quick-fix
When it comes to weight-loss, or anything really, the western world is addicted to the allure of a quick-fix. Many diets come as an 8-week meal plan or program with hefty price tags, and that’s before you’ve shopped the ingredient list. Gyms offer 12-week challenges that shock the body into action with high intensity exercise and strict eating plans. These plans and programs will help you lose weight in the short term, but life is longer than 12 weeks. You will revert to previous lifestyle habits when the challenge is over and end up closer to your original weight, just in time to start the next challenge. This creates an unhealthy weight-loss-weight-gain cycle that can lead to disordered eating, poor mental health and even depression.
Why diets don’t work long-term
First of all, well done if you have tried to change your eating or exercise habits. It can take a lot of courage to make large changes in your life, and whether it worked or not, you should be proud of taking steps towards better health. But there may have been several factors that weren’t in your favour:
- Everyone is different. Your body type, gut health, genetics, metabolism, work and family life can all contribute to your ability to lose weight. Studies on identical twins have shown that eating the same meal even at the same time of day can spike one person’s blood sugar differently or keep their fat levels elevated longer. The one-size-fits-all approach to diets doesn’t work.
- Calorie restricted eating can actually slow down your metabolism as your body goes into protection mode. This will result in weight gain after you have finished your diet.
- It wasn’t sustainable. Those eating or exercise plans may not have been sustainable long-term, or easy to adapt to a realistic lifestyle that involves socialising, travel or irregular work hours.
You can look great on the outside, but be rotting on the inside
Instead of short-term pain for long-term gain, it is actually short-term gain for long-term pain. Some modern fad diets call for the omission of essential nutrients such as healthy carbohydrates found in wholegrains and a lack of focus on dietary fibre within legumes, fruits and vegetables. Instead, these diets overly emphasise protein and fat. The positive: you will likely lose weight. The negative: increased TMAO levels, reduced protective gut bacteria and increased inflammatory gut bacteria which promote chronic gastrointestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis. Even if your goal isn’t weight loss but weight gain, these diets are doing more harm than good. To put this in perspective, the average life expectancy of a body-builder is just forty-seven years. You can look fit and healthy on the outside, but be rotting on the inside.
We need to shift our focus
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, vitality is defined as “the state of being strong and active; energy”. We need to shift our health mindset to focus more on our longevity and vitality. This means small and gradual lifestyle changes that are positive and sustainable. It means making lifestyle choices for long-term health benefits, rather than short-term image. Losing weight will be a natural bi-product along with better sleep, improved digestion, more energy and drastically reduced risk of chronic diseases. If your lifestyle choices each day are working towards a life of vitality, health and healing will follow.