How can “eating healthy” get in the way of healthy weight loss?

What do you want to do? Lose weight or use food as medicine to obtain optimal health?

What’s the difference?

Too much emphasis on healthy eating as a weight loss method can derail successful weight loss progress. It can make a tough job much harder. Most people who need to lose weight have complicated relationships with food. Food may be more than just food.

Healthy eating might mean no wheat. Hope you enjoy cauliflower pizza crust and have the time and talent to make it.

Healthy eating might mean no wheat. Hope you enjoy cauliflower pizza crust and have the time and talent to make it.

Food can be:

  • a source of guilt
  • a way to cope
  • a way to stay awake during night shifts
  • a way to beat boredom, or an escape valve for anger or frustration.

Some see food as their only friend or way to find pleasure. Foods used for those purposes are rarely the kinds of foods described as “healthy.”

Using food as a means of coping with stress is not an effective method, but food choices need not cause additional stress!

No more comfort foods. Better learn how to cope with stress with vegetables!

The essential weight loss action is creating a calorie deficit.???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

The source of calories removed from the diet to create the deficit matters less than the actual removal of calories. Despite thousands of sources that say differently, when you examine the all the different ways that people are losing weight, you’ll see they have one common factor – fewer calories.

Whether the dieter is counting calories or not, if weight is lost, it’s guaranteed that calories have been cut. It doesn’t matter if calories are cut by eating healthy food instead of junk food. You’ll read lots of articles that claim to debunk the calorie in/out theory and many seem to make a credible argument, but they’re all smokescreens. Some of the smokescreens are unproven science, some are theories that sound like science, and some are just, plain crazy talk! There must be a calorie deficit for weight loss.

Just for the record, I don’t label a single food item as “healthy” or “junky.” I believe food is either “tasty” or “not tasty” and a healthful diet is one that consists of all tasty foods – most of which are nutrient dense/ naturally lower in calories and few of which are not as nutritious/ perhaps higher in calories, and too tasty to stop eating altogether.

As if that’s not already making losing weight by “eating healthy” hard enough, giving up foods you love and replacing them with foods you will never be able to describe in a more positive way than, “it’s not that good but at least I don’t hate it,” doesn’t support sticking with a weight loss plan.

We are hard-wired to want to eat food that tastes good. The better the food tastes, the more we want to eat it. If we’re trying to lose weight and get healthy by “eating clean,” we’re told not to eat things such as bacon, all wheat products (including pizza) all dairy products (including cheese that goes on the pizzas we’re not supposed to eat, plus ice cream) and no foods made with any added sugar whatsoever.

It’s more complicated than that. Different “expert” sources have different dos and don’ts in regards to what to eat and what to never eat. The different schools of thought are hotly debated.

  • Some say saturated fat will cause heart disease.
  • Some say saturated fat is fine, it’s sugar that will kill you.
  • Some say it’s only added sugars that kill you.
  • Others say watch out for fruit and vegetables with high natural sugar content. They’ll kill you.
  • Some say whole grains are an important source of nutrients and fiber.
  • Others say stay away from grains. They’ll kill you.

The first few weeks of eating healthy for weight loss seems to be going well for most folks. They’re happy with their weight loss progress. Many report feeling better, fewer aches and pains and increased energy. It looks like this healthy eating business is the way to go.

Many of those folks don’t stick with their healthy eating plans. The reasons are numerous.?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

  • Many of those people who expected their healthy eating to reset their metabolism and to eliminate their cravings find that they are driven crazy with cravings. Cravings become bigger and more overwhelming than ever.
  • It’s time consuming. More time planning, more time shopping, more time preparing and packing, and reading labels to figure out what’s okay to eat and what isn’t.
  • More stress! Way more stress trying to fit the time it takes into an already too full day.
  • Too much work for disappointing results. Weight loss progress is less than expected for so much time, money, and deprivation.
  • Poor fit with their lifestyle.
  • They haven’t learned non food ways to cope with stress and a veggie shake just doesn’t soothe like a milkshake.?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Losing weight is a step towards better health all by itself. People can continue to eat the same foods they always ate, just smaller portions, and lose weight and gain substantial health benefits.dreamstime_m_31918939

To lose weight try cutting back on the food you’re eating and enjoying instead of completely changing what and how you eat. Add more fruit and vegetables to fill up the void and help to stay feeling full. Try to move a little more. Eat cookies and McDonald’s free from guilt, if that’s what you love – just less often. Leave “food as medicine and eating for optimal health” to the people who don’t have a life!



Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.