Let’s face it, in our modern society, weight loss is often celebrated. There’s no denying the benefit of weight loss for our health and wellbeing, but what happens if it goes a step too far? For most, their weight loss journey begins with and maintains good intentions. However, with praise from those around us and a new identity, how do we prevent it becoming an unhealthy obsession? Together, let’s explore how our weight loss journey may become a cause for concern and how to navigate the balance between healthful intentions and potential pitfalls
Guidelines suggest 1-2 pounds of weight loss a week is healthy and sustainable. Anything more probably means weight loss behaviours are too drastic, meaning the weight won’t stay off. However, like anything health-related, this is just a guideline and doesn’t take into consideration individual factors such as genetics, body composition and lifestyle. That’s why it’s important to take a personalised approach to weight loss, and know the warning signs of concerning weight loss.
So, when should we start to be concerned about weight loss?
- It becomes rapid, so consistently more than about 2 pounds a week.
- You start to experience physical signs like fatigue, weakness, and changes in skin and hair.
- You experience a change in mood such as mood swings, irritability, body image preoccupation.
- You notice behavioural changes such as social withdrawal, isolation and avoidance of social events involving food.
You might be thinking, but if my intention is to lose weight, why does it matter what the speed is? Well, it really does matter, and rapid weight loss can be bad for the following reasons:
- It probably won’t stay off in the long term as the behaviours you’re engaging in to lose weight will very likely be impossible to sustain.
- Rapid weight loss requires dietary restriction, so you’re probably missing out on key nutrients needed to keep your body and mind healthy.
- In order to compensate for the reduced food intake, your metabolism is likely to slow down and this may lead to weight gain from less food in the future.
- You might be losing muscle if you reduce the amount of protein you’re eating.
- It might actually just be water weight you are losing from a reduction in carbohydrates, which could also promote dehydration.
- If you’re not eating enough, you may become overly preoccupied with food and struggle to shift your focus from your next meal, what others are eating, or obsessional thoughts around food and body.
At times, society may seem to have an obsession with weight loss, and that disordered eating behaviours are somehow also encouraged. Social media showcases ordinary individuals detailing their daily meals, fitness influencers endorsing disordered eating, and images of idealised bodies achieved through restrictive diets which normalise behaviours that don’t support our health and wellbeing. When we see the positive feedback these behaviours seem to receive, it’s difficult to not engage or believe it's the only method for weight loss success. Some eating patterns that are actually disordered which you might not realise include:
- Cheat meals, or cheat days, where you indulge in foods normally restricted.
- Cutting out whole food groups in the pursuit of weight loss.
- Skipping meals to compensate for other meals.
- Over-exercising to compensate for food consumed.
- Clean eating to avoid so called “unhealthy foods” which may lead to orthorexia.
- Restriction of your dietary intake causing negative mental and physical signs.
Considering this, how do we spot and steer clear of disordered behaviours, ensuring a healthy lifestyle and sustainable weight loss without compromising mental and physical well-being?
- Focus on nutrient-rich foods which leave you feeling satisfied e.g. protein rich, whole-grain options.
- Include exercise that you enjoy that makes you feel good about your body, rather than punishment.
- Avoid extreme diets that exclude food groups or involve excessive calorie restriction but focus on long-term, sustainable changes.
- Limit distractions during meal times to savour each bite and enjoy the food you are eating.
- Retain an identity outside of weight loss - remember who you are and why people love you. Don’t lose yourself in the pursuit of weight loss.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle should always be at the forefront of our minds when engaging in weight loss pursuits. Our Healthcare Technicians are here to support you through every step of your journey ensuring that you develop long-term, supportive behaviours for your overall health.
If you are concerned about your eating patterns, BEAT provides resources and guidance to navigate these difficult emotions.
eMed Weight Management Program: A Holistic Approach to Obesity
The eMed Weight Management Programme offers a comprehensive approach to weight loss that includes GLP-1 medication for appetite reduction, free mental healthcare, physio appointments, and personalised treatment plans. It emphasises a holistic view of health, addressing physical and mental aspects together. The programme operates entirely online, providing ongoing support, check-ins, and medication adjustments. It's designed based on the individual's lifestyle, eating patterns, health history, and weight loss goals, aiming for realistic, sustainable outcomes.
For further information you can visit eMed Weight Management Programme webpage.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Guidelines on Weight Loss and Management. Link
- National Eating Disorders Collaboration. Disordered Eating and Dieting. Retrieved from Link
- Balanced Treatment for Eating Disorders. Normalisation of Eating Disorders in Social Media. Link
- Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy Weight, Nutrition, and Physical Activity. Link
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. NICE Recommended Weight Loss Drug to be Made Available in Specialist NHS Services. Link
- Government of the United Kingdom. Drug Safety Update: GLP-1 Receptor Agonists Reports of Diabetic Ketoacidosis. Link