As a society, we have an obsession with weight.
Diet culture, pressure, the media and the government (!) are just some of the contributors to this obsession.
The ‘Corona-stone’ is one of the phrases being commonly used in reference to weight gain over the last couple of months and recent government guidelines have suggested ways in which we can ‘tackle’ obesity and help adults and children to lose weight and live healthier lives.
Of course, there are some positives in the government’s plan, such as banning ‘junk food’ adverts before watershed and the prevention of less nutritious ‘buy one get one free’ offers, but we need to look at the bigger picture.
Firstly, using unhelpful language such as ‘tackle’ and ‘fight’ in reference to weight loss can make individuals feel overwhelmed, disheartened and at fault – not a good place to start! This type of language suggests people need to take personal responsibility for their weight, or recent weight gain, without considering the ‘why’ behind peoples eating behaviours.
With reference to ‘COVID related weight gain’, it is important to remember that nothing about our recent circumstances have been normal, so chances are our diet and lifestyle choices won’t have been either. We need to take a more self-compassionate approach, and support people toward their health goals by meeting them where they are and looking at the factors that influence their diet and lifestyle choices.
Stress, loneliness, boredom, lack of sleep, low income (at times making it more difficult to access healthy options) and many other factors.
Coping with stress is different for everyone, however many people turn to food as a quick fix / escape method. It is more common to alter our dietary choices from the norm when we are feeling stressed, and we tend lack motivation to make nutritious, home cooked meals. Stress can affect our behaviour around food, how much we eat and the types of food we crave. As well as this it creates a perfect scenario for fat storage - being linked to increased weight around the stomach region.
Lack of Sleep
Six hours of sleep or less causes us to eat on average 200-300 more calories per day. When we lack sleep, our body produces more of our appetite hormone ‘ghrelin’, stimulating hunger and less of our feeling full hormone ‘leptin’, causing the potential to overeat. There is a strong correlation between lack of sleep and weight gain.
Restricting a specific food group from our diet could not only cause us to miss out on key nutrients needed for our body and mind to function at its best, but could also lead us to ‘binge’ on the nutrient we have restricted: often opting for the more refined, processed versions of the nutrient. Maintaining a healthy balanced diet means no restrictions or rules – but nutrients and variety.
Once we begin to take a more holistic approach, trying to underpin the root cause of peoples eating behaviours, we can start to address some of the reasons people could be struggling to lose weight.
Rather than getting sucked into the trap of diet culture and beginning to feel the pressure to restrict, remember that diets don’t work! A set way of eating designed for everyone is not effective, since our dietary needs are so individual and will change from day to day depending on activity levels, hormones and other lifestyle factors. What works for one does not work for another.
The idea that we can create a specific set of rules or restrictions which will support us to successfully tackle obesity in the UK is unrealistic. It can create feelings of guilt, shame and sadness. And what do we turn to as a quick fix which makes us feel better when we are feeling sad? Food! This ongoing cycle can be problematic.
There is no denying obesity is an issue here in the UK, and is something that needs to be respectfully addressed, however rather than moving forward with a focus of judgement and pressure which can be triggering for many, remember that prioritising on our health irrespective of our weight is always a good idea!
Let’s direct our attention toward supporting people to feel good as a whole, both physically and mentally, by promoting a non restrictive, balanced approach which focuses on prioritising sleep, managing stress and building positive relationships with food.
Remember, it’s all about nourishment, not punishment!
‘When ‘I’ is replaced with ‘we’ even illness becomes wellness.’ Malcolm X
Holistic Health Coach - Anna Whyte
'The 'Wellness with Anna' philosophy focuses on taking a more balanced and holistic approach to health, providing clients with the tools they need to make sustainable changes and the motivation to start their new health journey.
We discuss how you can eat real, nourishing food, exercise mindfully and prioritise time to relax. What I provide isn't a diet; it's a holistic approach to a healthier life.'