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Healthy Weight Center

Any Harm in Dieting if You`re Not Overweight?

03/30/2010

Question:

Is there any harm in dieting if I don`t need to lose weight?

My employer is having a "Wellness Month" with prizes and stuff, and its all about losing weight.

I don`t need to lose weight, I am 5"2 113 lbs.

But I want to try to win some of the prizes. They have stuff like movie passes, concert tickets and free parking for a year which is worth a lot of money, we pay $50/month for parking.

You get points for stuff like measuring portion sizes, substituting low calories food for high calorie food, drinking a lot of water, cooking from recipes instead of eating stuff out of a box, exercising during lunch, and journaling about everything you eat, plus points for actual weight lost)

Is there any harm if a normal weight person competes to lose weight if they just do it during Wellness Month and then stop when it is over? If I lose like 20-30 lbs will I be too skinny forever or would I gain it right back as soon as I quit dieting?

Answer:

Weight loss is recommended for persons who are overweight or obese to decrease their risk of disease by adopting healthy lifestyle habits (nutrient-dense foods and regular physical activity).  On the other hand, weight gain is recommended for persons who are underweight for the same reason - to decrease their risk of disease. 

You are now at a healthy weight that is associated with a low risk of disease.  By losing weight, you may be causing unnecessary stress on your body.  Depending on your food intake, you might restrict your calories and nutrients to an unhealthy level, triggering physiological responses in your body to adapt to your inadequate intake.  Our diets need to include many nutrients (such as protein, vitamins, and minerals) everyday for optimal health.  By restricting your intake, you may be at risk for creating imbalances and deficiencies.

Although your worksite program is focusing on weight loss, many of the suggested lifestyle changes (such as drinking lots of water, journaling, exercising at lunch, and cooking from recipes rather than eating processed foods) are healthy ideas for everyone, regardless of body weight.  So you could participate in the program, but your goal would be weight maintenance rather than weight loss.

Talk with the wellness manager at your worksite and suggest that points should be earned for weight maintenance if you are already at a healthy weight.  I encountered a similar situation at a health club and explained that weight loss is important to reach a healthy weight, but it is equally important for persons to maintain a healthy weight.  So the program at the health club was changed to reward both weight loss and weight maintenance, depending on your current weight.  Hopefully, your employer will understand the value of staying healthy by remaining in the healthy weight range!

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Response by:

Bonnie J Brehm, PhD, RD Bonnie J Brehm, PhD, RD
Professor of Nursing
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati