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Weight Loss Is NOT An Achievement

by Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. on March 5, 2012


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Did the title of this post kind of piss you off?  Good!

The idea that weight loss is a good idea and a worthy achievement is so ingrained in our society that most of us take it for granted.  Of course losing weight is an achievement, right?  We heap praise on anyone who does it.  We flagellate ourselves for not achieving it.

weight loss is not a worthy achievement

Take a moment to list your real achievements. (Image by Golda Poretsky)

And the worst part . . . no other achievement seems to compare with the high of weight loss.

Last week, I was re-reading Paul Campos’s The Obesity Myth in preparation for my Body Love Revolutionaries Telesummit call with him and Amy Erdman Farrell.  It had been a while since I’d read the book, and I had forgotten about his discussion of Susan Estrich, a woman whose many achievements include being the first female editor of the Harvard Law Review, being a Harvard Law professor, and managing a presidential campaign.  Ms. Estrich also wrote a popular diet book, wherein she wrote, “Nothing that I do now or have done in the past . . . has made me prouder, happier, or more fulfilled than losing weight and getting in shape.” [1]

This statement would be shocking if it weren’t so shockingly normal for women.  Before I was a counselor, I was a lawyer myself, and nearly the entire time that I was attending a rather prestigious law school and working at rather prestigious firms, none of it felt like an achievement compared to fleeting bouts of weight loss.  Why is nothing good enough if we don’t fit into a particular dress size? 

Weight loss and the praise we get for it are major self esteem boosts.  But the problem is that the self esteem you gain from weight loss is temporary.  That initial high of praise and satisfaction begins flitting away, so you feel pressure to lose more weight in order to get more praise, and if you gain the weight back (as 85-95% do) your self esteem plummets.

By the way, I’m not saying that weight loss is a bad thing.  For some people, it may happen as a result of healthy, non-restrictive eating and appropriate body movement.  And for others, these things may have no effect or even increase their weight.  But the achievement is engaging in these healthy behaviors, not the weight loss itself.

So how do you avoid the highs and lows of weight loss?  Make a list of your real accomplishments, like graduating from school, being a good friend, eating with pleasure, and moving your body with joy.  The more you focus on these real and totally legitimate achievements, the better you’ll feel, and the more stable your self esteem will be.

Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. Go to http://www.bodylovewellness.com/free to get your free download — Golda’s Top Ten Tips For Divine Dining!

 

  1. [1] Paul Campos, The Obesity Myth(New York: Gotham Books, 2004) 202

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy April 2, 2012 at 1:59 pm

I’ve said it many times before but, Thank YOU, Golda. Your wisdom is so welcome in my life.

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Jer March 15, 2012 at 2:32 pm

I know I’m a little late here, but back in December, I decided to start working out and eating healthier. I started lifting weights and doing cardio about half hour a day, 6 days a week. At the time, I thought it’d be cheaper to lose weight instead of having to buy new clothes. My clothes were all getting too small for me. After 13 weeks, I’ve lost 34 pounds, I’m down to 273.

Most importantly, I’m feeling better, my knees and legs aren’t as sore, my back isn’t as sore and I don’t get heartburn anymore. I eat all my meals, I drink plenty of water and I still on occasion will have a burger, some pizza or a bottle of beer. And to me it makes those foods better because I’m not eating them all the time like I used to.

But yeah, weight loss is not an achievement. I don’t like the compliments. Compliment me on trying to be healthier and taking care of myself.

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Ronnie March 15, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Just stumbled across this site. Love what I’ve seen so far, and I think this is excellent. I have been battling with my weight since I – well forever – even when in the world’s eye I still “looked good”, was thin. But, this article, to me was best illustrated in my oldest daughter. About 5 yrs. back my daughter, then around 19 or 20 became anorexic. She was never “fat” only more rounded than most of her peers. She got thinner and thinner. At first we didn’t realize what was going on, but she started to get scary thin & when she did – boy, did the COMPLIMENTS start flowing in for her. She looks so great, so wonderful….yada yada yada! She was always beautiful (no mommy prejudice here), but it sickened me to see how much praise and attention she got WHEN SHE WAS SLOWLY KILLING HERSELF. Now you can imagine the mind frame that gave her! She is doing much better, but she still struggles with this daily. Thank you for a place where truth is being upheld. Kudos! to you.

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Mulberry March 6, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Part of it is just that you get so much more praise from losing weight than you can get from almost anything else you might do. To the point that, for anything else you might accomplish, it would get pooh-poohed if you happened to gain some weight at the same time as doing it.
Also, people relate to weight-loss, or the desire for it like they relate to almost nothing else. If you should manage to do it, it gives them hope that maybe they can do it, too.
I don’t find that weight loss gives me a high. In fact, I find people’s reactions to it disgusting.

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Bill Fabrey March 5, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Magnificent column, Golda! And your clipboard art illustrated your point so well.

Years ago, the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, author of the popular “The Power of Positive Thinking” and many other books, urged his readers to list all of their assets, positive attributes, and achievements, before giving in to negative thinking like “I never accomplished anything” or “I can’t do anything right” or “I don’t deserve to be happy”. He was not specifically talking about body image, but he was talking about self-esteem in general. Your columns are in keeping with his philosophies–and mine.

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(@bodylovewellnes) (@bodylovewellnes) March 5, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Weight Loss Is NOT An Achievement: http://t.co/kbJsNblC

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Carol Gwenn March 5, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Weight loss as ACCOMPLISHMENT? No, I don’t think so.

It’s been seven years since ( due to a year of illness & subsequent surgeries) I lost 80 pounds that I neither needed nor wanted to lose. Other than a few close friends who were truly concerned about my health problems, NO ONE I knew had anything to say except, “Wow, look what you did!” “You’ve lost SO much weight! How did you do it?” and – worst of all, “You must be SO proud of yourself!”

Well, no, I wasn’t proud of it at all. In the years since, I’ve never been able to regain the weight (have no idea why) and my health has never been the same, but all anyone ever seems to notice is that I lost weight. People are just so blinded by the thin=healthy myth that they cannot see weight loss as anything but a boon.

All of you in the movement need to keep on hammering away, and maybe, some day, the light will dawn, and people realize that losing weight is not up there with finding a cure for AIDS or solving the issue of peace in the Middle East. (Hey – we can always hope!)

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Paula Capocchi March 5, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Golda, you are such a gift to me and countless others. thank you for sharing your wisdom!

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