“The only source of knowledge is experience.” –Albert Einstein
Would you trust your unemployed cousin to give you business advice? What about your childless neighbor telling you how to raise your children? So why would it make sense to accept weight loss advice from someone who's never had to overcome a weight issue?
Books have been written, articles published, and news segments publicized about the eating habits of naturally thin people. The latest craze is all about trying to figure out what makes these skinny guys and gals different from those of us that grew up fat.
These articles or books entice us with titles such as, “French Women Don’t Get Fat” or “How Naturally Thin People Eat, Move & Think About Food”… but they aren’t helpful for those of us who were raised in a household that had no food values. Many of us weren’t taught what our emotions mean. We may have suffered childhood traumas. And we learned to self-medicate with our television, food, and booze.
For the sake of science, I think it's great to have the research done on what our eating patterns and beliefs around food tell about our ability to be average-sized. However, I would not necessarily take weight loss advice from a slender person.
Here's why I avoid weight loss advice from naturally thin people:
1. Weight loss isn’t just a “logical” process.
As much as we would all love to believe it’s as easy as just eating healthfully and exercising regularly, for many of us, that’s not the answer. Most of the clients I’ve worked with in my health coaching business know what’s healthy to eat and what exercises to do already, yet they are still overweight. We have habits and beliefs that we have to change before we tackle the issue of what to eat and how to move our bodies. If we’re continually sabotaging ourselves with stress, fear, shame, guilt, and other harmful emotions, we will continue to run into the same problem with sticking to eating healthfully and moving our bodies more. We must take care of our emotional self before the logical process can begin.
2. What’s comfortable for a thin person may be terrifying for a plus-sized person.
Our comfort zones are what we make them. These comfort zones are shaped by life’s experiences. For a slender person to say, “Just join a gym and exercise….” That doesn’t work for many of us who suffer from body shame and low self-esteem. Many of us have been openly ridiculed for our bodies. So, to step into that uncomfortable and fearful place is a paralyzing thought that holds many of us trapped in our homes trying to workout to fitness DVDs in our cramped living rooms. Unfortunately, I’ve heard very few success stories of lasting weight loss (over three years of maintenance) from someone who worked out in front of their television. Before you can “just go to the gym”, you’ve got to be willing to face the fear and expand your comfort zone (at the cost of embarrassment and judgment from others).
3. The excuses and barriers are different.
Thin people haven’t experienced what it’s like to carry around the 150+ extra pounds like I did on a daily basis. I came up with a lot of reasons to keep the weight on. I had a lot of self-imposed barriers for not making my health a priority. I had every excuse in the book to allow myself to fail time and time again. Thin people aren’t able to read between the lines of what’s really going on when a plus-sized person comes up with excuses. Most thin folks will say, “Well, just pack a salad” or “schedule a run” or my favorite is, “if you want it bad enough, just stop the excuses.” They can’t help you understand why you’re making the excuses and the reasonable ways around them because they’ve never made those excuses themselves. The understanding is lacking. We all make excuses for ourselves, but plus-sized people make a lot of interesting ones (and I know almost all of them).
“In a British qualitative study, primary care physicians reported beliefs that obesity was caused by an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise and that it was the responsibility of the patients themselves to manage their weight. Physicians expressed frustration that patients made excuses as to why they could not comply with lifestyle recommendations.” The Stigma of Obesity: A Review and Update by Rebecca M. Puhl and Chelsea A. Heuer
4. Some thin people are not good examples of “healthy”.
While I do believe in the adage that if we want to become a certain kind of person, we must live the life of that person, you must recognize that some naturally thin people are unhealthy and have bad habits, too. Some “naturally” thin people have high metabolisms that allow for them to eat chemical junk food, and not have it show up as a muffin top on their bodies (but possibly have it show up as cancer later in life). Some thin people survive on drugs and alcohol. Some thin people suffer from eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia. And some thin people are so rigid in following healthy food rules that it would be impossible for you to live up to their standards (these people often have orthorexia eating disorder).
Long story, short:
Work with a personal trainer if you want to increase your athletic performance, not to help you lose weight. Employ a nutritionist if you want to learn more about what you're eating or improve a digestive issue, not to lose weight. Hire the right person for the job.
Here's a testimony from a health coaching client who took part in my 8 Great Ways To Lose Weight program. Her testimony touches upon what an experienced health coach can help you see and understand about weight loss:
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