I see the phrase “weight maintenance” used a lot in the healthcare world- whether it’s from doctors, fellow RDs or other health professionals. And to be honest, it always makes me bristle a little bit. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why this phrase makes me cringe (especially when I see it in the same places talking about intuitive eating & Health at Every Size) so I wanted to share some of what I’ve come up with here.
The main reason is that it implies we can control our weight. It might sound radical to anyone who is new or unfamiliar with HAES but I just don’t believe that we have as much control over our weight as society makes it seem. I practice using the set point theory - the idea that our bodies have a 10-20 pound range that it feels most comfortable in and will fight to stay within. How is our set point determined? A lot of factors go into our set point but one of the main factors is genetics. Some research shows that up to 80% of our body shape/size is determined by genetics; if you look at your parents/grandparents/siblings, you probably have a good idea of what that might look like for you. But the bottom line is- our set point is not within our control. So when you come to work with me, I can’t guarantee that I will help you maintain your weight. When you start eating intuitively, you might lose weight, you might gain weight or your body might stay the same depending on where you’re at in your journey with food.
Another reason I have trouble with “weight maintenance” is that to me, it sounds like a code word for dieting. As the body positive movement grows and we shift away from the dieting craze of the 90s, the $60 billion dieting industry has come up with a lot of euphemisms for dieting. Some of those are “lifestyle change”, “cleanse”, “detox”, etc. Weight maintenance just seems like another word for dieting i.e. weight loss. And as much as I know that there’s a demand for weight loss, it’s not a service I can provide. Don’t get me wrong- I will always meet a client where they are and living in our weight-obsessed world, I absolutely understand why weight loss is appealing. But it’s never a goal I’ll set with a client or something we’ll work towards. Why? Because there’s an overwhelming amount of evidence that dieting for weight loss isn’t effective long-term. And the last thing I want to do is set my clients on a path towards failure.
That being said, I don’t expect anyone to be anti-weight loss when they come to me. We live in a culture that encourages, promotes and praises weight loss. It’s on the cover of magazines, it’s in an advertisement on the side of Facebook, it’s on social media, it’s everywhere. So if you want to lose weight…I understand. And my hope is that we can meet each other halfway. But promising that working with me will bring you weight loss or weight maintenance is not something I can do without compromising the values I believe in. Because the truth is, I don't know what your set point weight is, but I do know how to find it. And that's what I can guarantee when clients work with me- that I can help them find their body's natural weight and help them to feel at home in their bodies. At the end of the day, it's not about your weight; it's about your ability to take care of yourself in ways that feel right to you, feel at peace with your body and stop letting food get in the way of living your life.