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Weight loss is one of those buzzwords that have permeated society. Everywhere you look, there’s a weight loss discourse, advertisement or debate. From fad diets to rigorous exercise regimes to weight loss products, the world appears to be obsessed with thinness.

Everyone is striving to shed pounds off their body weight and will go to extreme measures to accomplish this ideal. But why are so many people hell-bent on losing weight? Is it actually necessary? In this article, we will examine the reasons for this obsession and its impact on our health and well-being.

Media and Societal Influence

One of the leading reasons for widespread weight loss obsession is the pressure to bow to societal beauty standards. The media has brandished a picture-perfect image of what is considered beautiful and healthy — we are constantly fed images of thin and toned individuals parading as the symbol of health and ultimate beauty. 

TV shows, magazines, billboards, and social media platforms showcase models and celebrities with so-called perfect bodies and astonishing beauty which has fuelled raging insecurity amongst the populace. Consuming these images and ideals has led to gnawing feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, such that people are driven to attain these glorified “body goals” at all costs.

The pressure to conform to media and societal standards of beauty and body image is especially targeted at women, who are often ridiculed and judged for their appearance. It is common knowledge that society holds women to higher beauty and body standards than they do men. Numerous studies have confirmed that women who are bullied for how they look, eventually detest their body weight and shape and are likely to fall prey to depression and anxiety.

Health Concerns

Second, to societal conditioning, health concerns are another major reason why weight loss has so captured the world’s interest. There are numerous health benefits associated with losing weight and health experts have unanimously attested to this. Excess weight or obesity lays the foundation for several chronic diseases including cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, and specific cancers.

As such, weight loss can minimize these risks and improve a person’s life quality. Nonetheless,  weight loss does not always equate to improved health. It is entirely possible to maintain a healthy weight and suffer poor health outcomes when other factors such as poor lifestyle habits and inadequate nutrition are at play.

So the talk about weight loss promoting robust health is sometimes misleading. Though that in itself is a fact, weight loss advocates fail to mention the dynamics involved.  Just like a person with a healthy weight can suffer health issues, an overweight person can also manage to be healthy.  It all boils down to lifestyle habits and not necessarily weight loss. You can lose all the weight in the world, but if you smoke your lungs out and drink like a fish, you’d be predisposed to numerous chronic diseases.

The Billion-dollar Weight Industry

The unhealthy obsession with weight loss is also fueled by the billion-dollar weight control and diet industry.  These agents of capitalism leverage the benefits of weight loss to lure the interest of people with misleading information. Fad diets and weight loss products are created and aggressively marketed as quick weight loss solutions.

Oftentimes these restrictive diets and products are unsustainable and do more harm than good. They are aided by the media which campaign for perfectly toned and polished bodies. They feed off people’s desperation and are not entirely truthful about the pros and cons of their innovations.

As long as the money keeps flowing, they continue to market unrealistic products to unsuspecting and desperate clientele. While health professionals do their utmost best to preach healthy eating habits and moderate exercise, the lure of quick weight loss solutions is hard to resist.

The Risks Involved

As salubrious as weight loss is, unhealthy obsession can breed damaging problems. Behaviours such as extreme dieting and over-exercising are common side effects of weight loss addiction. These habits can lead to malnutrition, dehydration and in worst-case scenarios, death.

In addition, weight loss obsession can result in eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. These disorders are classic manifestations of body dysmorphia and have severe physical and psychological effects. When you start viewing food as an enemy rather than a source of nourishment and pleasure, your body and mental health will suffer.

It is self-sabotaging to set unrealistic weight loss goals based on the recommendations of diet commercials and social media influencers. The diet industry is replete with empty promises and deception for the sake of financial exploitation.

There’s barely any evidence to support most of the over-hyped diet plans and weight loss products. Many studies have shown that weight loss is a gradual process that requires calorie control and a healthy exercise routine.

Signs you are Obsessed with Weight Loss

Like with most obsessions, it is possible to be oblivious to your addiction. And in a media-driven world, it is easy to get caught in the web of deception that states only thin bodies are acceptable, which is false in all ramifications.

Though weight loss is a desirable accomplishment with healthy perks such as good nutrition and physical activity, it can also become an overwhelming compulsion that can ruin your everyday life. If you notice that your preoccupation with food is sapping the joy out of your life,  you might be suffering from a weight loss obsession. Other tell-tale signs of weight loss obsession include :

  • Round-the-clock tracking of calorie consumption, macronutrients and overall food intake
  • Frequently weighing your body weight and taking other body measurements
  • Setting stringent food and exercise rules with no room for infringements
  • Feeling extreme guilt when indulging in specific foods that are “forbidden” in your diet.
  • Purging calories by over-exercising or exercising to compensate for perceived overconsumption
  • Religiously following fad diets
  • Developing anxiety when you adopt specific food habits such as cutting out carbs and sugar intake
  • Obsessively eating foods that are deemed to be healthy or high-quality such as organic, vegan and non-GMO foods and nothing else. This condition is called orthorexia nervosa.

Changing your Mindset

Weight loss shouldn’t be an obsession with a fixed number on the scale. Rather, your weight loss expectations should reflect a healthy relationship with food and exercise. It is uber important to target good nourishment and engage in enjoyable physical activities. Weight loss shouldn’t be a battlefield, rather it should be a loving and intentional activity geared towards improving the quality of your life. You should lose weight because you want to improve your health and lifestyle not because of beauty standards or whatnot.

Understand that weight loss is a gradual process and wouldn’t happen in a blink of an eye. You didn’t gain weight in a day, so you shouldn’t expect to lose it in a day as well. Taking up quick weight loss solutions is unsustainable. Most of these lose-weight-quick schemes are difficult to maintain in the long term and you might end up gaining everything you lost in the long haul (if not more) – which will eventually stir feelings of failure and inadequacy.

Seek Help

If you need help to dissociate from weight loss obsession, consider authorized programs that can help redefine your relationship with food and exercise. You can start by enlisting the services of a therapist or licensed dietitian. They can help you unlearn toxic food habits and instil a healthy eating culture.

You can also consider intuitive eating, which is a non-diet approach that will help you get in tune with your natural hunger and fullness cues as opposed to your dependence on external gastronomic rules. Intuitive eating can help you unlearn the diet mentality by highlighting the false promises in the diet industry. You will learn to enjoy and savour each meal without picturing scales and numbers. You will also learn to exercise more for pleasure than for calorie burn.

Quick Tips for Overcoming Weight Loss Obsession

  1. Do not compare your body with others and focus on eating for nourishment.
  2. Steer clear of restrictive diets and weight loss products that promise a quick fix.
  3. Make sustainable lifestyle changes such as incorporating fruits and whole meals into your diets and using healthy cooking methods.
  4. Partake in physical activities that you enjoy rather than follow a monotonous exercise regime
  5. Listen to your natural hunger and fullness cues. Eat when you are hungry and stop eating when you are full.
  6. Seek support from family and friends or a healthcare expert when you are struggling with diet mentality or a negative body image.

The Key Takeaway

Weight loss obsession is a complex issue that is primarily influenced by societal constructs and the bullion-dollar weight control industry. People are obsessed with losing weight for all the wrong reasons rather than for healthy nourishment and improved life quality.

Weight loss should be more about developing a healthy relationship with food and exercise and less about body image or perception. You should also lose weight to minimize health risks. If you find that you are becoming obsessed or are addicted to weight loss, seek immediate help and redefine your relationship with food and exercise.

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