If you are like most people with high body fat, you’ve probably tried to lose it before. If it doesn’t work, most programs or spectators on the sidelines place the blame for that squarely on you. It’s you who needs to “step up” and just take personal responsibility and stick with the program. You should try harder.
So, you try again, maybe with another program. The same story happens on repeat. This narrative—that it’s your fault—plays over and over until you start to wonder if the problem really is you. In fact, you now believe that since you’ve tried so many options, if you were just stronger and had more willpower, the weight would be gone. Discouraged, you take a break or give up completely.
It’s Not You
But the truth is, there is nothing wrong with you. You deserve a fat loss program that works for you. There is an incorrect yet pervasive belief in society that people with high body weights have low willpower and bring their ill health on themselves. Receiving blame for not losing weight is a reaction that is therefore reserved for people trying to lose body fat. Internalizing this belief, or believing it to be true, is a huge bump in the road to health for many people with high body fat.
Is it fair to blame yourself for not losing weight? The short answer is no. If you have been backed into this corner, it is time to take a peek outside for a fresh perspective. Here are three reasons to reconsider this type of thinking:
- A fat loss diet can work in many different forms, so there is no “one way” you must turn your life upside down to follow.
If someone tells you there is only one way to lose fat and you just need to make it happen, they are either lying or misinformed. Fat loss is achieved with a sustained, moderate reduction in food intake. Whichever approach you take is merely one method of achieving that reduction. There is nothing magical about any one approach that makes it the only “right way.”
Therefore, if you cannot make the latest fad approach work for you because it involves:
- Not eating a food you love
- Or eating too often for your schedule
- Or not eating dinner with your family, which is your favorite part of the day,
Here is the good news: you can move on! This has nothing to do with your worth as a person, and it is fine to look for another approach.
- Different fat loss approaches have different side effects, and the one that works is the one that is as comfortable as possible for you.
Fat loss is no joke. Taking serious and sustained efforts towards improving your health should always involve more benefit than harm. Everyone has different physiology, so the response to a specific fat loss approach varies a lot. There might be some approaches that feel more physically comfortable to you than others.
If a specific approach is creating side effects that are not tolerable, stop engaging in that approach. If a diet involves prolonged fasting, for example, it might create weakness or dizziness. Or, if an approach involves eating very little protein, you might feel distractingly hungry. Symptoms that are side effects of a fat loss approach should be managed like side effects of any other therapy. Systematically, with troubleshooting and compassion for the person experiencing those side effects.
- Therapies for a serious medical problem like excess body fat are not a test of your character.
People with excess body fat have a responsibility to do what they can to manage their health. That is true of anyone with any serious medical condition. But the treatment method also has the responsibility of doing more good than harm for the person engaging in it.
If a dietary approach to fat loss feels impossible to sustain and asks you to bend over backwards to follow it, or if it feels incredibly uncomfortable, you deserve something better. This is your health, after all. Don’t be afraid to ask for it and advocate for a better way that suits you.
Breaking the Narrative on Personal Responsibility for Fat Loss
Although society and loved ones around you might blame you for your ill health, it’s important to recognize that you have taken personal responsibility. You have tried to lose weight before. You are here, reading this blog. Losing body fat requires trial and error, and you can and will find the method that works for you.
Let’s consider a hypothetical example of medication you just started for hypertension. You must take it three times a day, and remembering the second dose in the middle of the day is hard when you have nonstop meetings at work. It gives you side effects that make basic activities like driving and exercising difficult. So, you ask your doctor for a different medication instead because this one is not working for you.
Your doctor doesn’t blink an eye when you ask for a new medication, and your partner supports your decision. They don’t berate you for not having enough willpower to remember to take the dose in the middle of the day. They don’t ask you to change your schedule. They don’t say you are “weak” when you mention the side effects that bother you. They don’t throw their hands up and tell you the solution is there if you could just take this one medication. You don’t feel ashamed to mention it doesn’t work, or to ask for a different medication.
Why should finding the right fat loss solution for your body and lifestyle be any different?
Finding the Fat Loss Diet That Works for You
The reality is, a specific dietary approach for fat loss is similar in many ways to taking medication. There are many different dietary approaches that can work for fat loss, just as there are many different medications that might treat a specific condition. No one ties their sense of self-worth to whether or not a particular medication works for them. If one doesn’t work, they just move on to the next one.
Similarly, you should see dietary approaches as a sort of “medicine” that either works for you or doesn’t. Any attempt should not be tied back to your worth as a person or your character. This is both appropriate and essential to your success.
If at first you don’t succeed with your fat loss approach, simply try again. No guilt. No shame. No blame. If it didn’t work, the plan was the wrong one for your body. When you the fat loss plan that works right for your body, you can succeed and go on to live a healthier life!
Emily Dhurandhar, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer