5 Ways to Measure Your Health That Have Nothing To Do With Weight ( Guest Article)

Hello everyone!  As I continue to grow as a private practice professional I am becoming increasingly aware of the value of acknowledging different practitioners views, values and approaches to nutrition counseling.

Although it’s no secret that I do work a lot in weight management, I also believe that there is a real need to de-emphasize the value of weight as a marker of success when it comes to nutrition interventions ( especially as it relates to  client perceptions of “success” or “progress”).

This is something that I’ve certainly worked towards in my own practice and is also exactly why I reached out to west coast dietitian Whitney Catalano of the Trust Your Body Project

Whitney does amazing work and kindly agreed to put together a piece for my site that will help you understand all of the different ways you can enjoy and measure the benefits of working with a dietitian ( or changing health behaviours on your own) that have absolutely nothing to do with changing your weight.

Let’s see what she has to say!

Success Without Weight Loss

By Whitney Catalano RDN

Have you ever been told by a doctor that you need to lose weight for your health?

If your answer is yes, you are not alone. With over two-thirds of Americans classified as either overweight or obese, weight loss has become the central focus of health for most people.

The problem with using weight loss as a measurement for success is that we don’t have as much control over our weight as we once thought. There are no methods that have been proven to actually result in long-term weight loss for a significant number of people.[1] In fact, history of dieting and attempts to losing weight through dietary restraint are considered predictors for overeating long-term weight gain.[2]

While this may be disappointing, it’s not surprising. The human body is designed to survive starvation! If we could rapidly lose weight whenever we eat less, we wouldn’t make it very long as a species surviving famines. In fact, two common effects of low-calorie diets are binge eating and tendency to overeat high-fat, high-sugar foods as a way for the body to respond to restriction.[3] Think of it like a pendulum – the less you eat on your diet, the more you’ll binge when you break it.

So with all of this information, you may be wondering, “if I can’t lose weight, then should I just give up on my health?”

Absolutely not!

The research shows that changing health behaviors can improve your health, regardless of whether weight is lost.[4] This means that shifting your focus away from weight loss actually gives you more power over your health.

When we separate our health from the scale, we learn to define success in ways that are unique to our bodies and actually helpful to our lives, which in my opinion, is the whole point of wellness.

To help you get started, here are 5 ways to measure success that have nothing to do with weight.

1. More energy!
Having more energy is a common buzzword these days, but it’s hard to know what that really means. A good way to measure this is by keeping a food and energy log for 3-5 days to track the timing of your meals, your hunger and fullness levels before and after eating, and your energy levels (on a scale of 1-10). If you often work 6-8 hours without eating a substantial meal and snacks throughout, then you may find yourself getting unusually sleepy, irritable, foggy, and unfocused in the afternoon. Eating balanced meals and snacks every 3-4 hours throughout the day can help stabilize energy.

2. Strength & stamina.

Using weight loss as your only motivation at the gym can quickly turn working out into a chore. If this is something you struggle with, it’s time to ask yourself what you even like doing. Find an exercise you enjoy doing and watch yourself get better and stronger overtime! For some, this can mean a more competitive group workout environment, and for others, this means Pilates or walking with friends. Find a way to move your body that brings you joy and set fitness goals for yourself along the way.

3. Cholesterol and blood sugar

It’s no secret that high cholesterol and insulin resistance are common problems, but you don’t have to lose weight to solve them. Some key strategies you can try: eat more high-fiber foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and legumes), swap out butter for olive oil, experiment with fatty fish and plant-based proteins instead of red meat for most meals, and try to eat balanced meals (with protein, fruits/vegetables, and fat) every 3-4 hours to regulate your blood sugar. Increasing physical activity and reducing stress will also go a long way towards improving your overall health. If you want to be proactive about bringing these numbers down, visit your doctor for blood work every 3-6 months to see how things are going.

4. Count your colors

Instead of wasting time counting calories and fighting your hunger, try shifting your focus to the colors on your plate. Every color plant has different micronutrients, which is why it’s recommended to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Next time you go grocery shopping, take inventory of what colors you usually buy, and then make an effort to try one new color (or one new vegetable). Luckily, the internet is overflowing with delicious recipes, so this can be a fun opportunity for you and your family to experiment with new food.

5. Improved sleep

Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep can be an important message from your body that something is wrong. Sleep can be affected by a number of things, including hormonal changes (like andropause and menopause), stress, micronutrient deficiencies, lack of exercise, too much exercise (right before bed), anxiety or depression, etc. For many people, sleep naturally improves as health improves, especially if improving health means that you cut back on your all-stress diet. If lifestyle changes don’t help improve your sleep, find a specialist in your area who can check your hormones and micronutrients for any clues as to why.

About Whitney

Whitney Catalano, RDN is a Health at Every Size dietitian specializing in emotional and binge eating, body image healing, anxiety management, and self-worth coaching. If you are ready to break free from the diet/binge cycle and transform your mindset around food, visit WhitneyCatalano.com/services to work with her from anywhere in the world.

[1] (Bacon & Aphramor, Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift, 2011)

[2] (Berman, 2018)

[3] (Berman, 2018)

[4] (Bacon, Stern, Van Loam, & Keim, 2005; Bacon, Stern, Van Loam, & Keim, 2005)