First, let me just say: I hope you understand that this post is in part in jest – because obviously there is no definitive list of anything, and to call weight loss motivation “favorite” “positive” or “best” or not is egregious, presumptuous, and quite self-righteous.
But I also really do want to address the various motivations we might have for wanting to lose weight. While I will not condemn anyone for caring about any of the reasons, positive or negative, for losing weight, I do really believe that some motivations for losing weight are more mentally and physically healthy than others.
I consider it my duty to be honest about when I think that is probably the case and when it isn’t.
And I do definitely believe that weight loss can be a positive goal. People ask me about this a lot. They are curious: if I am such a big fan of the concept of being healthy at any size, how can I have a program designed for weight loss?
Well, because I think there are some solidly good reasons out there for wanting to lose weight.
To that end, I have written up a short list of (usually) healthier reasons to lose weight versus (usually) less than healthy reasons to lose weight. Today I am publishingly the “good” list. Next week is the less than awesome list.
And, of course, in the end, every single one of these motivations has everything to do with how positive a mind-set you have, and how at peace you are with yourself and your body while you do it.
So here we are, tada! The definitive list of better – or acceptable – or really just my favorite, reasons for wanting to lose weight.
1. Health (or “health”)
I do believe it is possible to be healthy at any size, depending on your genes, your diet history, your health history, and the way in which you eat and live. I wrote an extensive post about how our believe that body fat causes poor health is a myth, which you can read at the post: Can Being Overweight Be Healthier than Normal Weight?
Nevertheless, it is possible for body fat to play a role in some health issues. For example, abdominal fat tends to secrete inflammatory molecules, which contribute to systemic inflammation, and which has been linked to cardiovascular disease.
Losing body fat also appears to help improve insulin resistance in studies. It is unclear whether it is the actual loss of fat itself or the improvement in diet and exercise that normally accompanies weight loss that is truly to be credited for improvements in health, though it is quite possible that weight loss is a direct influence in one way or another. I believe that both the dietary changes and the actual weight loss play a role.
Health is a good motivation to lose weight, so long as you are reasonably confident it’s a culprit in your symptoms or health risks. This can’t apply if you are shooting for the “last five pounds” however. It may not even apply the last 10, 20, or 30 pounds.
Most people who lose a significant amount of weight profess to feeling more energetic. This is in part because it requires less energy to maintain a smaller body, so your body spends less energy on a moment-to-moment basis after you lose a significant amount of weight.
This is also because you actually weigh less, which causes the pull of gravity on you to decrease slightly. This can make your muscles feel relatively stronger, and your step be relatively springier. People who lose significant weight often confess to feeling actually physically lighter, which can be a nice way to help leap out of bed in the morning.
3. Physical Fitness
When you become significantly lighter, it becomes easier to jump higher, to run longer, and to do pretty much anything that requires you to move your body. With a smaller amount of mass the body has more energy to perform stronger and longer.
Of course, it is entirely possible to be overweight or obese and be physically fit. There are plenty of amazing athletes with fat on their bones. But for people who really prioritize athletic performance and who are engaged in sports which are better for lighter people (like running, as opposed to shot-putting), physical fitness is an acceptable and healthy reason to lose weight.
Physical fitness is also a ccommon reason to want to gain body fat. Many people who lift weights ignore body fat percentages altogether. Their bodies need fuel in order to build muscle. They will eat heavily and frequently in order to make sure their bodies get the fuel they need, and they’ll say screw it with regards to body fat. Sometimes its just a part of the athletic package, so I simply wish to stress here that body fat and physical fitness can go both ways.
4. Joint pain
Being significantly obese can put extra stress on the joints, particularly in the lower body and the knees. Reducing body fat in order to alleviate joints is non-negotiably a good reason to want to lose weight.
5. Wardrobe maintenance
This reason is more practical than anything.
Sometimes, after a stressful period, or after pregnancy or what-not, women find that they have outgrown most of their clothes.
If you loved your old wardrobe and don’t want to spend a fortune replacing it, weight loss–done in a sustainable and self-loving manner–can be a great way to save yourself the trouble.
Now I don’t mean that if you have a whole closet full of “skinny” pants back from the days in which you starved yourself, then you should hurry up and drop the weight again. I certainly have one of these closets, but I keep it just in case that sort of weight loss accidentally happens. Rather, I mean: a wardrobe at which you happily sustained an intuitive diet and lifestyle may be worthwhile of such pursuits.
One reason for weight loss I continue to feel emotionally moved by is physical intimacy.
This was something that never occurred to me, but was rather described to me by an amazing paleo friend of mine, who just so happens to be a best-selling author, and rather a big deal.
This friend of mine lost more than 100 pounds. She told me that one of the best things that happened when she lost weight was that she got to feel physically closer to her husband. When she hugged him, her head and her heart were closer to his. Weight loss made it easier for her to feel physically unified with her husband.
This was such an unexpected and beautiful aspect of her journey… I just had to share. Physical intimacy can be one particularly nice reason to want to lose weight. Obviously it is possible to be physically intimate and and close with body fat – obviously – but for some people this might feel like a pleasant part of the weight loss journey.
And with intimacy I draw my list of favorite reasons for wanting to lose weight to a close. This is not an exhaustive list by any means… I think really that no matter what your motivation is for losing weight, if you do so in a way that is in loving harmony with your body and never punish yourself or compare yourself to others, you’re doing all right. I know that is easier said than done, but in the end, your health and your body fat are yours and yours alone, and you deserve to feel awesome about your body all of the time.
You will note that in most of these items I said they applied to “significant” weight loss. The “last five pounds” won’t make a difference for athletic performance, joint pain, health, or the ability to be physically close to another person. Of course I have no issues with women who would like to lose a few pounds here or there. I personally maintain a specific body composition (which is certainly a bit squishy and jiggly) on purpose… but I do find that most of us become neurotic about the way we look on our bad days.
If we can focus on things like health, energy, and intimacy, we may be able to increase the number of good days that we have. The best reasons for wanting to lose weight are those that you can’t see, because they make us feel and perform better, and have longer, healthier lives.
I do not expect perfection from anyone else in this regard, nor of myself. We live in a tough world, and it’s hard to feel comfortable in our bodies when we are so scrutinized and labeleld by the outside world.
But I encourage you to do your best, and to remember always that your weight loss journey is about the way that you feel in your body and the things you can physically do, not about the squishiness on your middle or your day dreams about a thigh gap.
If you so elect to lose weight and want to do so in a manner that is both physically and mentally health, I have a program specifically designed to make that easy for you: it’s Weight Loss Unlocked: The Paleo Woman’s Solution. You can check it out and see if its a good fit for you here.