12 Reasons Not to Lose Weight
More than one-third of Americans are considered obese, and the number increases every year. It's no wonder weight loss is marketed as the best way to achieve a healthy lifestyle. But weight isn't the only factor that determines health, and there are many reasons not to focus only on what the scale says.
The number on the scale doesn't give a full picture of health. Body Mass Index, used widely by many health professionals, provides a rough estimate by calculating weight and height, but even that is considered flawed. An abnormally high weight falling into the obese range increases the risk of serious health problems -- but weight alone does not serve as a healthiness indicator.
Weight changes day by day, perhaps even hour by hour depending on diet, sodium and water intake, and hormonal changes. One could weigh a few pounds lighter after an intense hot yoga session or gain a few after consuming a sodium-rich meal. It's hard to track one's true weight, but incredibly easy to stress over a sudden increase of 3 to 5 pounds in one day.
A pound of fat weighs the same as a pound of muscle, but muscle is much more dense and compact. A person with more muscle may wonder why they weigh more than someone with similar height and a fuller figure -- because muscles pack in weight but take up less space.
Weight obsessions steer people into crash diets, which may help lose a handful of pounds quickly. But studies have show crash diets and sudden weight loss aren't effective in the long run. Crash dieters rebound and end up gaining the lost pounds back (and sometimes more).
Crash diets and yo-yo diets are especially damaging to the body. When a diet starts, the fat in muscles and organs are first in line, according to Barbara Gower, a professor of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Crash dieting can harm skin, bones, and the heart, Health.com reports.
A major myth of weight loss: Exercise burns off all the calories. In reality, exercise rarely burns off a significant portion of daily caloric intake from food. It certainly won't help with weight loss as much as one would like. In fact, many overcompensate by eating more calories than they would have if they hadn't worked out, due to an increase in appetite.
Some of the biggest myths around weight loss and diets focus on restricting certain delicious foods, such as desserts and carbs. But humans have a limited amount of willpower and are bound to crack after taxing periods of self-control. Instead, practice a flexible diet with indulgences once in a while. Enjoy the treat and go back to eating wholesome foods the next day -- without the guilt.
Rapid weight loss goes against our entire metabolic system. Lose too much weight too quickly and the body shifts into survival mode, slowing the metabolism to preserve energy and resulting in hunger and muscle loss. Weight loss slows or stops as a result. (CoachCalorie.com recommends a 15 percent deficit in caloric intake to start.)
Physical health and weight maintenance are important, but mental health should also be prioritized. Harnessing willpower to practice portion control and exercise daily is vital to a healthy lifestyle, but stress, anxiety, and other instances of emotional distress are often the causes of overeating. And too much worry about weight leads all too often to eating disorders that can be even more harmful.
With so much emphasis on weight, it's easy to forget about mobility and flexibility. Flexibility refers to the length of a muscle, while mobility reflects the health of a joint. Maintaining a healthy weight is vital to a long life, but so is maintaining a wide range of motion and keeping muscles and joints active and moving.
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