The “Science” Of Weight Loss

I was passing through the grocery store checkout line as the new magazines were being loaded into the racks. One headline, in particular, caught my eye: The Science of Weight Loss. No, I didn’t buy the magazine or even read the article while waiting in line. Instead, I’m writing a post about why – from a Happy Calories Don’t Count perspective – it doesn’t matter what’s contained inside. Whatever it says, it is very unlikely to be of any real meaningful value in terms of your particular situation.

First off, I have a great respect for science. This discussion is in no way belittling science, the scientific community or the scientific contributions made to society. Rather, this is about viewpoints, perspectives and agendas – very few of which have anything to do with supporting you in your quest for healing and transformation.

First off, the headline. The headline for the cover was specifically written to entice us to pick up the magazine – and purchase it. The idea is that if we knew what “science” said about weight loss, we would then be able to “know” the answer and create the results we want. It is “science,” after all. But how many times have you picked up a magazine – enticed by the headline of the cover story – only to never really get the information promised from the headline? The purpose of the headline is to sell magazines. Period.

But let’s give the editors the benefit of the doubt and say that the article really does contain the latest scientific information about weight loss. Ok. There will still be some issues. For one, just because it’s “science” that doesn’t mean it’s “right.” There were times when astronomers created complex equations to rationalize a universe in which the sun revolved around the earth. Until relatively recently, the atom was believed to be the smallest bit of matter. Science does the best it can with what information it has at the moment. And when new discoveries are made, the science evolves. So science doesn’t know everything – and it doesn’t know what’s right for you.

Furthermore, scientific theories and studies are created by human minds operating from within their own individual frameworks and assumptions. As in the previous astronomy example, there was a time when the assumption was that the earth was the center of the universe. So the math equations were developed in a way that could explain and support that assumption. To even create other mathematical models, one had to be able to entertain the idea of a different premise – mainly that the earth revolved around the sun (a premise that was downright dangerous during certain times). In terms of weight loss, a lot of scientific research is done from within the framework of the “diet and exercise” model. A lot of studies are conducted about food or activity – as if food and activity are the only components that make us human. No research has been done that includes that totality of who we are as human beings. And this is, in part, because a “scientific” inquiry needs to address a reasonably small set of variables in order to reach any sort of conclusion.

Moreover, science only ever answers the question “what.” It doesn’t answer “why.” Science can tell us that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but it can’t tell us why. Granted, a scientist might answer something like, “molecules get so cold that their movement slows down and they hook to each other to make a solid.” But that still doesn’t answer the question, why.  And this is important because in the weight loss arena, people make all sorts of claims and assumptions as to “why” someone gains or loses weight when they really have no basis to do so.

And this leads us to one of the biggest problems with the “science” of weight loss. Have you ever tried to actually read a legitimate, scientific research study? There are so many data points and qualifiers and statements about the design of the study that most lay people (and sales people) ultimately just want the headline – or the bottom line. This “essential gist” is at best, incomplete and at worst, misleading. Furthermore, studies have outliers and everyone will tell you “no one diet (or exercise program) is right for everyone.” 

Ultimately, the biggest problem with the “science of weight loss” is that it simply becomes nothing more than information floating around in your head. It is information you end up using to judge yourself – and it is information that creates interference in the messages you receive from your body. As noted earlier, science cannot look at the entire body as a whole – there are too many variables. But your body is a whole. And your body is part of the bigger organism that is you. Your body works in harmony with your thoughts, your beliefs, your dreams, your desires and your actions. So from a Happy Calories Don’t Count perspective, “The Science of Weight Loss” ultimately doesn’t tell us anything meaningful or actionable – especially when it comes to improving our relationships with our bodies and creating freedom from food drama. What is meaningful and actionable is the wisdom and guidance coming forth from our unique bodies.