The Dark Side of Fat Loss

jennifer-burk-118076.jpg

Programs, coaches, and advertisements preach and promote fat loss all the time. They give you false promises that you will be happier and receive more love if you shrink down and get washboard abs. Want to wear a bikini? You have to have a “bikini body” first! Don’t show your true self or your skin if you haven’t slimmed down or else everyone will ridicule and shame you.

These messages tell us that we don’t deserve to feel confident in our skin unless we adhere to a certain type of standard. That you don't deserve to be happy with yourself.

I’ve had enough. I’ve felt like I’ve had an itch that I can’t scratch as I gain experience as a coach.

The notion of promoting body hatred and shame has always made me feel uneasy. I've never encouraged my clients to weigh themselves or even demanded measurements if they had zero interest in that. I love the power of a before and after picture, but it was always to see new muscular development, postural fixes, and that bright and shiny glow of self-love. I've never gotten joy out of seeing them shrink.

Nia Shanks, a coach, writer, and author, recently wrote a blog called “Screw Fat Loss” and it seriously impacted me. You can read it for yourself here. The title for my article was obviously inspired by her words. It was like this post was written FOR me right now. “Screw fat loss” seems to be a mantra I’ve been saying to myself and my clients with every little bit of diet culture bullshit I consume. Reading this article helped me further cement my beliefs and evolution as a coach.

I’ve decided to fully commit myself to being a body positive personal trainer and celebrating true authenticity. No more of this half in/half out, not quite taking a hard stance, not drawing a line in the sand, still semi-promoting this notion of making fat loss the main goal (even though I’ve done my best not to). No one is shielded from the diet culture weapons of mass destruction and I’ve been dodging bullets for years without fully realizing the impact it has.

I want to do work that I’m passionate about. Encouraging people to SHRINK and OBSESS over everything they put in their mouths is not the impact I want to have on the world.

Why?

I’ve learned what true joy means.

I’ve learned that no matter how much you “change” your body, it won’t make you any happier or feel any more loved.

I’ve learned that our bodies are very intelligent and they will send you feedback all day if you’re willing to listen.

I’ve learned that we can eat intuitively for nourishment AND pleasure.  

I’ve learned that feeling at-home in your body includes trusting your body and your intuition.

Most of all, I've learned that purely striving for fat loss is some surface level shit. A deeper understanding of yourself, your behaviors, habits, and coping mechanisms is truly where the magic happens.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I won’t encourage getting curious about the foods you’re currently consuming and seeing if you could feel more at-home in your body with making some adjustments. If you are chronically sluggish and having health issues, it’s definitely worth examining, but I also think it’s worth getting tested to see if specific vitamin levels are low or allergies are present so you can pinpoint exactly what might be going on. A mechanic wouldn’t start fixing your car without looking under the hood, so it’s important to know exactly what feedback your body is trying to give you and why. For example, something as simple as learning to balance your blood sugar can fix a lot of discomfort….

However, the word curious is key here. Food doesn’t fix everything. Exercise doesn’t fix everything either. They are tools in your toolbox and can certainly have a massive impact on the way you feel in your body, but this can be done gently and without judgment and intensity. This can be done with STRENGTH and the pure joy of movement in mind. This can be done with curiosity about your emotions and relationship with food. This can be done with love for yourself.

It seems like the stress around changing your diet and eating “perfectly” can have more of an impact on people than the actual food! The fat loss mindset can be detrimental to your entire system. I’m sick and tired of hearing people defend their food choices or feel BAD for deciding to eat something for pleasure.There doesn’t need to be guilt and shame involved. The constant pursuit of fat-loss only makes you constantly dissatisfied with your body.

I’m starting to realize how many people have been dieting their entire lives. A lot of children are exposed to this at a young age and this obsession with food and bizarre programming leads into adulthood. It leads to this restrict/binge cycle that takes all the satisfaction out of eating. If this wasn’t your experience, I’m very happy for you, but this is something I see so commonly that it’s driven me to want to take this hard stance.

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE food. I’ve had a complicated relationship with food my entire life and there's been a lot of layers to it, but just accepting how much I love it and allowing myself that pleasure in life with zero guilt has been a game-changer. Nothing is off-limits for me anymore. If I want a doughnut, I eat it. If I want veggies, I eat ‘em. It’s taken the power away from the food because I’m never in a state of scarcity and it’s actually helped me make ideal choices for my body.

As Nia said in her article, “The reason you eat a chicken salad doesn’t have to be I’m trying to lose weight. You can eat a slice of pizza without declaring you’re cheating on your diet or, even worse, bemoaning I’m going to get fat from this, while indulging in what’s been labeled a guilty-pleasure food.”

Sure, perhaps for some people, being very strict and having rules works. I'm not knocking on those people or coaches that promote it, but I’m done with that path. The constant shunning of my instincts has lead me down the wrong path and I refuse to allow it to rule my life or impact the way I coach.

I’ve always dabbled in the “body positive” perspective because of my past with disordered eating and exercise obsession. The past year has been a journey that’s lead me up to the point of truly feeling sick and tired of my previous programming. Coaching clients around improving their relationships with food and movement has lit a fire in me that keeps growing. At first, I was fighting the flames but now I understand that the heat I’m feeling is calling to me for a reason.

I always thought HEALTH was my true passion. Although it's a piece of the puzzle, I’ve realized that EMPOWERMENT is my passion and that everyone's puzzle looks different. You know what’s DISempowering? Restrictions, rules, shame, ignoring intuition,  stressing 24/7, being afraid of food, punishing yourself with movement and trying to grip onto something for control.

The More Mindset

Start focusing on MORE. It’s that simple.

More nourishment. More strength. More joy. More compassion. More mindfulness.

I’m here to tell you that you can set health and fitness goals that have nothing to do with losing fat. You can take pride in your fitness, eat intuitively, and figure out what health looks and feels like for YOU. Eff diet culture. Eff the fat loss mindset taking over your life. Get curious and learn to communicate with your body. Your body might morph and change as a byproduct when you have the MORE mindset. This mindset focuses on making additions and growing instead of subtracting and losing your sanity.

Teresa ChocaComment