Eating Disorders are not Diets

Losing weight is not easy.

I hear it all too often. *desperate tone* “Calum, I’m barely eating and I still can’t seem to lose weight. I don’t understand what’s going on.”

I’ve met with dozens of people over the years that have been told time and again that if you want to lose weight all you have to do is eat less, and move more. A simple concept, that unfortunately is easily misconstrued, and often makes things worse.

The problem with “eat less, move more” is that less can continue until you’re eating nothing at all, and more can continue until you’re fainting in the gym, irritable with your family, and falling asleep at your desk. None of these are acceptable ways to live your life, nor should you accept them as an inevitability of losing weight.

You’ve been misguided and misled for many years by people who say that living a healthy life, and a healthy body weight is something that requires dedication and sacrifice, and something that is largely difficult to accomplish for the average gym goer, and it’s just not fucking true.

“Eat less and move more” is great in theory, but for the average person who barely understands what they’re supposed to be eating, and is already overweight and both emotionally and hormonally compromised, it’s quite simply- not that easy.

Why is this?

Well the answer isn’t so black and white.

On a physiological (inside your body) level, your hormones once you cross a certain threshold of gaining weight actually encourage you to store more fat. For men it’s an increase in estrogen and insulin resistance, and for women it’s an increase in testosterone (which encourages the traditionally “male” fat storage) and the same insulin resistance.

On a social level, most people who are overweight or obese don’t tend to be heavily involved in things that are both social and active. The idea that movement or activity is something that can be done in a group setting becomes more daunting, and people who aren’t confident in their physical ability are less likely to engage in sports or other activities that involve moving in public.

On an emotional level, there are a TON of negative associations with being overweight. People are genuinely afraid of being fat, and if you are fat, society and the media have strong biases against you. It can be exhausting for people who are already out of shape to feel they need to defend themselves all day, and then try to muster the energy to exercise at the end of the day.

Unfortunately, the answer to “why can’t you just lose weight?” is: because it’s fucking hard, and you beating yourself up for not doing it actually makes it harder.

What do I mean by that?

Well, I’m going to start by giving you a few definitions:

Eating Disorder: any of several psychological disorders (such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia) characterized by serious disturbances of eating behavior.

Anorexia Nervosa: a serious disorder in eating behavior characterized especially by a pathological fear of weight gain leading to faulty eating patterns, malnutrition, and usually excessive weight loss

Bulimia: a serious eating disorder that occurs chiefly in females, is characterized by compulsive overeating usually followed by self-induced vomiting or laxative or diuretic abuse, and is often accompanied by guilt and depression

Binge Eating Disorder: Individuals who suffer from Binge Eating Disorder will frequently lose control over his or her eating. Different from bulimia nervosa however, episodes of binge-eating are not followed by compensatory behaviors, such as purging, fasting, or excessive exercise. Because of this, many people suffering from BED may be obese and at an increased risk of developing other conditions, such as cardiovascular disease.

With all of these disorders people can experience feelings like guilt, shame, distress, embarrassment, malnutrition, gastrointestinal problems and brain damage. THIS IS NOT A JOKE. Starving yourself to lose weight when you’re 150 pounds overweight is exactly the same thing as starving yourself to lose weight when you’re 15 pounds underweight. The only difference is you’re less likely to die quickly.

Starving yourself is not a diet. If you’re on a diet, or you’re trying to lose weight and you’re barely eating, and then completely lose control and binge on anything and everything in sight, I’m sorry to say, it will not work.

This is morbid, but it really needs to be reiterated that losing weight is meant to make your life better, not worse. If you need to lose weight, you need to know that it is possible, but that you need to be very clear on both your intent and your approach. You’re on a quest for better health and overall well being, not just on a mission to drop pounds.

If your goal is weight loss, there are a few things you need to do before you start:

  1. Set action based goals. What are you going to ADD in? Remember, weight loss is a LACK of exercise, and a lack of positive social activity. That might mean joining a friend for a walk every day, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
  2. If you’re going to make a change, you need to INTENTIONALLY change slowly. So what is the smallest possible change that you could make at this time that would move you in the right direction?
  3. Remember, everything takes longer than you think it should. So if you knew that NO MATTER what you wouldn’t be able to lose the weight for at least 2 years, would you want to be miserable for the next 2 years, or would you want to enjoy your life along the way?

I’m so sorry that the industry that I work in has made so many people so unhappy, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to starve yourself to see progress, and you don’t have to be unhappy to lose weight. You deserve better.

Thank you so much for reading this! If this was helpful, and you’d like to work with me to help you along the road to your weight loss journey, click here, fill out the survey, and let’s talk about helping you lose the weight that’s been holding you back from the things you wish you could do.

If you liked/ hated this, I’d love to hear from you!

Much love,

Coach Calum Shaw

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