These days, more and more people are becoming conscious about their health, which, in turn, has made the health and wellness industry a burgeoning movement. The majority of this is primarily focused on one thing—weight control. This could be down to a variety of reasons ranging from the desire to look great to feeling great about oneself, from avoiding illness to just being healthier overall. Because of this, there is a growing number of people focused on shedding pounds and lowering their body mass index (BMI). In short, weight control has become the “be all and end all” of the population’s goals with regards to health.
While this is all well and good in theory, health expert Dr. Miriam Stoppard believes that this obsession on weight control and weight loss is distracting people from what is more important—that is to say, lifestyle as a whole. This means looking beyond weight control and weight loss, and considering everything else—your level of fitness and the amount of physical activity that you do, what you put in your body in terms of food and drink, and whether you have bad habits and vices like smoking.
A holistic approach
What Dr. Stoppard is driving at is actually pretty simple—as long as you get all of these right, your weight will not matter at all. This pretty much means that a good chunk of the population has been focusing on the wrong thing. Of course, this is not to say that weight loss, especially in obese and overweight people, is not important. It is, and there should be no doubt of this. However, it does not mean that weight loss automatically translates to better health. It just means that other factors that comprise one’s lifestyle like diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, and vices like smoking are also just as important.
One of the reasons why these factors are often overlooked while weight loss remains at the forefront is because the latter is easier to measure, even in the most rigorous research scenarios. Indeed, it is almost impossible to quantify if one is healthier because of lifestyle change, as opposed to weight loss.
Another problem with giving weight loss too much prominence is that it is extremely hard to maintain in the long run. This is because the body naturally fights against weight loss as soon as it gains weight. This is mainly the reason why it is easier for obese people to lose hundreds of pounds, as opposed to fitter people trying to lose ten pounds. This is why adjusting one’s lifestyle holistically needs to take on a greater importance.
Looking at the bigger picture
Indeed, it may seem like an oxymoron, but the fact of the matter is, the issue of body weight is just a small part of the whole package of being healthy. After all, body weight is not created equal. For example, extra weight on the hips, thighs, and arms is not as big a problem as extra flab around the waist and stomach.
The truth is there are bigger and more important risk factors that are exponentially much worse than being fat. Smoking, for one. In fact, smoking increases a person’s health risk by a full 100 percent, as opposed to the 20 percent that carrying extra weight contributes. It goes without saying that you can lose tens of pounds in weight, but if you continue smoking, your health risks remain almost exactly the same. Numerous aspects of health and general well-being can also experience improvement even without weight loss. For example, blood sugar control, as well as heart and lung fitness, are improved with increased physical activity. This is despite not losing a single pound of weight.
Of course, it should not be forgotten that this obsession on the lean physique started in the United States and is constantly heavily proliferated by the media, which has since led to feelings of anxiety and unrealistic body standards. This has only served to raise the levels of dissatisfaction on one’s body to astronomic heights, which really can do more harm than good in the long run.
It goes without saying that weight loss is not the only thing that equates to a better quality of life and a better health overall, so it is moot to make it the ultimate goal.