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  • Julie C.H. Brake, MS, RDN, LD

Weight Loss & Healthy Eating

It's New Year's Eve, and already the resolutions are being blasted on social media. Weight loss commercials abound, for programs, books, guides, diet products, foods, and drinks. Headlines about healthy eating and how to make desserts low-fat and good for you bombard pages. This diet culture we live in is contributing to the obesity crisis not helping it! Study after study has shown that diets don't work. Restrictive eating patterns result in rebound eating and consequently rebound weight gain.

So why not just let people eat and be happy no matter what size they are? Sounds good, but I think that's swinging to the other extreme. We can't all be healthy in thin bodies and we can't all be healthy in bigger bodies, either. The real answer to the problem is not to assume a person's health based on their size or the food they eat. True physical health is determined by several factors: the state of the body; whether or not diseases or chronic conditions interfere with health; overall nutritional status; whether a person engages in the appropriate physical activity for that individual; and how well a person rests. Thus there are several factors in determining whether someone should try to lose - or gain! - weight. All of these factors must be assessed before any "health" goal is set.

What if I really should lose or gain weight? How do I do that in a healthy way? These are questions I often hear. Let's be honest - some people would truly benefit from weight loss or gain! Yet I find that focusing on only the weight leads to many health problems, one of which is often disordered eating patterns that have very negative effects. There are many approaches to eating and health that are balanced and promote allowing the body to be however it was made to be. I have found that teaching how to balance nutrition with food groups and helping people learn to follow the body's signals for what it needs lead to lifelong skills in healthy living. There are general principles that can be applied for everyone but often meeting with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) will provide the personalized recommendations that help a person to be most successful. Many people also find that meeting with a counselor who can help them to have a balanced and realistic mindset is helpful.

For those who innately eat well by eating a variety of foods and following hunger and fullness cues, there is no need for medical or health interventions. It can be tricky to realize this if the culture is forcing a certain diet or exercise regimen. So consider what is right for you and stand up for your health. You have one physical body on this earth - take care of it!

One last note - Please do not believe that any single supplement, food, drink, product, or plan is the answer to lifelong health. Solutions to health that involve purchasing products are most often not real solutions. Ignore the hype, and eat well and prosper!

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