“I had to completely reinvent myself,” Iron Culture Podcast, Ep. 146- What The Fitness Industry Gets Wrong About The Obesity Epidemic

Well, I remarked that an 8 minute video isn’t enough to get to the meat of this topic, and the Iron Culture gents come out with a solid two hours exploring the intersection between weight loss for health, weight loss for aesthetics, and the complicated relationship between these ideas and the fitness industry. So, buckle up, push play, and be ready to explore some nuance!

I’ve been a fan of Dr. Gabrielle Fundaro for a quite a while now, and if you’re looking for some thoughtful, informed positions on gut health, she’s been THE evidence-based resource for years. However, perhaps a year ago, she began to discuss issues of long term fat loss maintenance and an evidence-based, lifestyle-focused approach to helping people increase their health. You hear some of this approach early in the conversation–creating opportunities for folks to improve their relationships with food in ways Dr. Fundaro describes as “weight neutral but not necessary weight maintaining.” Learning to pay attention to hunger and satiety cues, learning new strategies to cope with difficult feelings and emotions, and other behaviors that may result in fat loss without fat loss being the primary focus of attention.

What I especially love about this conversation, and Eric makes this point late into the conversation, is that an evidence-based approach to fat loss IS a behavior-focused approach. Food restriction, shame and blame do not result in fat loss or fat loss maintenance. I have been trying to make this point for a long time–I’m not anti-diet because diets are evil (although I think many folks who promote them can be, especially if they’re a doctor abusing their position of authority), I’m anti-diet because the traditional approach to fat loss of deprivation and suffering doesn’t work (and also, it’s mean).

Fat loss and dieting, however, are not synonymous, and this conversation makes that point, too. Dr. House (who I will forgive for now for too-many testicle jokes in the testosterone episode) clarifies that many folks entrenched in the anti-diet vs. fat loss for health debate are often talking about very different things. One side is concerned about the risks of fat-loss-at-any-cost, weight stigma and long term mental health risks and the other side sees the risks of metabolic disease and the health impacts of dietary choices that often lead to ever-increasing waistlines. It’s a both-and not an either-or.

At different times in my life, I’ve had different kinds of fat loss and physique goals. When I was a larger person, my goals were to live a life that helped me feel better physically and emotionally. I wanted strategies to deal with my feelings that didn’t leave me feeling sick afterwards, and I wanted to reduce some of the chronic pain I experienced in a bigger body that was a struggle to move. Nowadays, I acknowledge that any fat loss goals I have are strictly for aesthetics. I think of myself as a recreational bodybuilder, and I like having muscles and having them show. It isn’t about self-punishment or getting the world’s approval. As Dr. House says, body image and fat loss don’t have to be tied together, and for me, they’re truly not at this point in my life. Self-efficacy, integrity, and personal expression are the values that motivate my bodybuilding, and it’s important to me to continue to treat myself and my body with kindness and respect.

Conversations like this one reinforce that it’s possible for us to find healthy habits that reinforce our personal fitness goals and that the fitness world has a lot to learn from the anti-diet community. What is best for each of us will vary, and I appreciate the level of nuance this conversation brings to help folks consider what is best for themselves or their clients. I hope folks in the fitness industry are having these difficult conversations, finding the challenges in old approaches, learning from the anti-diet movement and establishing new strategies for helping folks live healthier and more comfortable lives on their own terms.

Did you give the episode a listen? Have some deep thoughts to share with us? You know I want to hear them! Please leave a comment below or you can help me fight the evil algorithms that rule our lives and find and follow Progressive Strength on Facebook and join the conversation over there.

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