Dr. Sandra Aamodt shares in the quote above from her brilliant book Why Diets Make Us Fat, diets are dangerous because they convince us that we must override our hunger response. This override can “impair [our] ability to recognize hunger.” So many suffer from eating disorders triggered by this kind of thinking and habituated response. She also convincingly argues that dieting eventually fails, as it depends on willpower. Our willpower is limited, we yo-yo diet and torture ourselves, and more damage than good results. Her review of the scientific evidence reveals that each of us has a “defended weight” that we can maintain, which encompasses our natural and intuitive hunger cues and responses, and does not drive us to suppress our starvation avoidance mechanisms. For many, that defended weight will be higher than the images in the magazines. However, we CAN find a healthy weight, discover body acceptance and positivity, and we CAN stop the endless struggling.
The health claims being bandied about for the need to “lose weight” in order to be healthy must be questioned in light of science and real outcomes. Read on to find out what factors might actually support your health —
As Dr. Aamodt discusses in her Ted Talk, a study shows that maintaining four healthy habits can reduce the risk of death over a 14 year period:
- Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Exercising three or more times per week
- Not smoking
- Moderate alcohol intake (for some, Moderate will equal no alcohol, as moderating is not possible)
Now, check out this graph. This graph from a study of healthy lifestyle habits shows that risk of death over a 14- year period is reduced at ALL WEIGHTS (see the height of the bar at “4” in each group), through adoption of the four healthy habits. Yes, even people labeled “obese” (we’ll save the myth of the BMI for another time) can have the same reduction in risk of death as so-called normal weight people when those four habits are adopted. There’s nowhere in those four habits that talks about special diets – the only aspects that relate to food are alcohol consumption and “plenty of fruits and vegetables.”
Table from Eric M. Matheson et al., “Healthy lifestyle habits and mortality in overweight and obese individuals”, Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, January/February 2012
From the standpoint of “what is real,” we see that exercise has a strong role in maintaining health and avoiding premature death. Yoga and other types of fitness can be the bedrock of a plan to cover these four areas. Where yoga and fitness differ, is that yoga has been shown, in hundreds of studies,* to provide physical fitness benefits, but also provide stress release, lower anxiety and depression, and help with sleep — the very factors that can lead to emotional eating that is disconnected from our natural hunger cues. AND, the big add-on is the mindfulness and awareness that generates from yoga and mindfulness practices — the techniques that allow us to dismantle habitual and addictive thinking and behavioral patterns.
If this information intrigues you and you want to find out more, look for our next Mindful Eating workshop. Together, we can take steps and move from the unreal to the real, and be healthier with each forward step.