Rethinking Weight Loss

Viewing it as a byproduct instead of the goal

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I’ve been overweight for most of my life. My weight has fluctuated throughout the years, a bit like a rollercoaster. Over the last few years, I’ve started thinking about weight loss in a slightly different way.

I always viewed losing weight as the goal of dieting and being physically active. At my heaviest weights, I felt like my size was the reason for everything in my life that wasn’t right and that losing weight would solve those problems. Losing weight was an obsession.

I’ve lost about 60 pounds over the last four-and-a-half years, but that was never my goal. To me, losing that weight was a byproduct of something much more important: prioritizing my holistic health.

It’s a subtle change in mindset, but it’s had a profound impact.

Our weight is just a number. It is what it is at any moment. It doesn’t necessarily represent whether one is healthy or not. Our weight changes relatively slowly based on our actions (usually from what we eat and how much we move our bodies, i.e. calories in vs calories out). It doesn’t make any sense to me to get down on or judge a person because of their weight at a given moment.

In the past, I would obsess over my weight. This was because a variety of reasons, which I outlined in my weight loss journey thus far. Society at large is just as obsessed with losing weight – with TV shows about who can lose the most weight and virtually all diet marketing being centered around weight loss.

Past me would have thought, okay, I need to eat less and start running every day. It’ll really suck at first, but it’ll get better. But the thing is, that never worked long-term. I always dropped the ball and regained the weight. Whether that was 5 pounds or 50 pounds. It was all because I was unhappy with myself and how I looked and how I felt. It was a bad foundation that wasn’t built upon love and compassion.

When I started to learn more about food and nutrition with my wife Abagail, I realized it’s way less about exercise and way more about what we eat.

In recent times, I hardly think about my weight at all. I trust that my body will burn the excess fat and process the fuel I give it, as long as I take care of my body. I trust that my body will heal itself.

Everything changed when my diet changed. I started to have more energy. I wanted to go for walks and actually enjoy them. I lost weight without working out. I started sleeping better. My blood work improved. But all of those are nice byproducts. They weren’t and are not my goals.

My weight has continued to steadily decrease because my body is heading toward its natural weight. I didn’t lose the 60 pounds super quickly in a few months or something. It’s happening slowly over time (~13 lbs/year). I lost those 60 pounds by changing what I ate to a whole food, plant-based vegan diet free of added salt, sugar, and oil. I eat mindfully and until I’m satiated. I only started a light workout routine about a month ago. I go for a walk every day. It’s incredibly simple and enjoyable.

So instead of obsessing about my weight and dropping pounds, I focus on making the best decision I can to live a healthy life in each moment (and particularly during each meal). The way I live and what I eat needs to be sustainable for me. I can’t do the rollercoaster anymore. It’s about the long-term.

I’ve made a few less-than-healthy choices over the last 4.5 years, but that doesn’t totally ruin everything. I don’t shame myself. I live in the present and try to make the best choice at each meal. I’m not some paragon of healthy eating.

The goal should not be weight loss. Our weight is going to fluctuate throughout our lives. What happens when you reach your target weight? Is it time to celebrate with an unhealthy treat? Do you go back to how you used to eat? Do you get upset when your weight fluctuates a few pounds above your goal weight?

I don’t have a target weight I’m trying to reach and maintain. Sure, it would be nice to no longer be categorically “overweight,” and I’m definitely heading there. But I’m not infatuated with reaching and maintaining one single number. Every time I weigh myself, the result is a “huh, interesting” and a general indicator that I’m doing the right thing for my body. I’m much more interested in the entire picture of my health – how my emotions and mental health have been, keeping my brain active, what my blood work numbers are, and how I’m feeling physically. It’s not about one number.

Weight loss is a byproduct of living a healthy life. Don’t obsess over one number. Don’t worry if the number is going up or down day-to-day. It’s about the big picture when it comes to health. It’s about every decision we make when we eat and how we choose to spend our time.

My goal is to make informed and intentional decisions every time I eat. My goal is to be active every single day. My goal is holistic health and balance.

Author: Brett Chalupa

day: software developer, night: comic artist

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