“Lose weight” may be the most popular New Year’s resolution, ranking ahead of “be happy” and “save money.” But Jon Robison, PhD, MS, thinks it’s one of the worst, likely to lead to harmful weight cycling and further gain.
“The research is clear,” he says. “There is no evidence that [any diet or exercise program] results in long-term weight loss for the vast majority of people who try it.” An adjunct assistant professor at Michigan State and adjunct associate professor at Western Michigan Universities, Robison advocates “substituting a Health-Centered Approach for the traditional weight-centered approach.”
Robison thinks the modern emphasis on weight loss has more to do with culture and profit than health. “Our culture’s unrelenting obsession with thinness has spawned a pervasive prejudice that causes tremendous suffering and social isolation for individuals of size,” he says on his Web site. “The unrelenting pressure to be thin is driven by diet, fashion, cosmetic, fitness and pharmaceutical industries that reap tremendous financial rewards by promoting unattainable expectations.”
“Despite huge time, money, and emotional investment, successful long-term weight loss is achieved by only a small minority of people,” Robison writes in an essay called “10 Things You Can Do Right Now to Ease Concerns About Your Weight.” “The Health-Centered Approach targets lifestyle factors such as physical activity, quality of diet, and stress…but it is weight-neutral…helping people ease concerns about their weight, while at the same time improving their health and the quality of their lives.
Robison’s approach is sometimes called “Health at Every Size, (HAES)” and the attitude towards food he teaches is called “intuitive eating.” HAES practitioners Linda Bacon, PhD, and Judith Matz, LCSW, recently wrote an article about intuitive eating in Diabetes Self-Management magazine.
While doctors are quick to prescribe weight loss for people with diabetes, Matz and Bacon maintain that the positive effects of weight loss are usually short-lived. “Weight loss is very effective at improving blood glucose control in the short term,” they write. “But this doesn’t mean that your health will be better off in the long run. A review of controlled weight-loss studies involving people with Type 2 diabetes showed that initial improvements in control were followed by a return to starting levels within 6 to 18 months, even in the few cases where weight loss was maintained.”
Bacon and Matz maintain that glucose monitoring is far more effective than weight as a way to determine how foods affect you. They describe one man’s experience with a fried chicken lunch that sent his glucose over 300. By monitoring after different lunches, he found that it was the combination of chicken, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, and gravy that had sent his glucose soaring. When he changed his side orders to green beans and a baked potato, his post-meal glucose topped out at 164.
What’s a Good Resolution?
If “lose weight” is a bad resolution, what are some better ones? Actually, you could skip the whole resolution thing, but if you want to resolve something, here are some of Dr. Robison’s 10 things you can do right now. One of them might make a good resolution for you:
- Not spend time or money on anyone that promises sustained weight loss
- Enjoy food more
- Vary your diet more
- Pay attention to your body; notice what it’s feeling and what it wants
Robison has another good idea — share food or donate food to someone who is needy. “Gratitude is deeply nourishing,” he says.
I could add some other possible resolutions. Don’t get in a glucose monitoring rut. Experiment with different times to check. Use blood glucose monitoring like a detective to find out how different foods, activities, and stresses affect you.
Some other generic resolutions: Move more. Worry less. Accept yourself as you are and life as it is. Learn more (take a class!). Stand up for yourself and for others who need support. Tell the truth even if it’s scary. Post more comments on Diabetes Self-Management blogs.
In case anyone wants to know my resolutions, I am keeping them very simple. First is to breathe better. Second is to take myself less seriously. I would like to hear more about your resolutions, or why you don’t have any.
Happy New Year to all of us.