Being Fat is Hard

It is everywhere:  advertisements on television, statements by celebrities and politicians, regulations, school lunch programs, medical protocols.  Obesity is now a major public enemy.

I do not mean to diminish the significance of this issue.  There is no question, obesity is a serious health concern.  It has also increased, though not as much as advertised.  (The definition of obesity was changed, which automatically dramatically increased the numbers without anyone gaining any weight.)  At the same time, all of this attention acts as if obesity was an easily remedied problem, if people just understood they should not be fat. 

The reality is, there is not an overweight person, who wants to be fat.  Every overweight person knows they would look better, feel better and be healthier if they were not obese.   Every overweight individual has tried numerous times and all kinds of ways to lose weight.  If it was just a matter of telling people they should not be fat or government outlawing fast food and controlling what kids eat at school, there would not be an obesity issue in the first place.  Clearly, it is not a problem easily solved.

The cause of obesity is multifactorial.  First there is genetics.  There is no question that some individuals biology pushes them towards obesity.  Our bodies are somewhat of a black box.  By that I mean that science does not understand all that controls how our bodies handle the weight issue.  Why is it that two individuals can consume the same number of calories and do the same amount of exercise and have very different changes in their weight?  This does not mean an individual who tends towards overweight, cannot have a healthy body weight.  It just means they have to work much harder to achieve it.  Occasionally, there are fixable medical problems causing weight gain.  Though everyone hopes this to be their cause.  A fixable medical cause is very uncommon. There are also clearly life style factors, be it overeating or a sedentary activity level, that can produce obesity.

Once one gains excessive weight, it is anything but easy to lose.    We want  the “secret” diet or pill that will make the pounds melt away.  Advertisers know this as every form of media is full of “answers” for the obesity problem.  Some become so desperate, they resort to major surgery to fix it.  Why is overcoming obesity so difficult?

1)  The body’s biology is designed to prevent weight loss.  God designed us to survive in difficult situations, thus as the intake of calories goes down, the body holds onto them harder.  This is also why the first pounds come off relatively easy, but then it becomes harder to keep losing.

2)  Losing weight requires BOTH a reduction in calories consumed AND an increase in the burning of calories.  I find that most people try to lose weight by doing one or the other, but it requires both.

3)  Eating is one of the wonderful pleasures of life.  There is no question we have been given the capacity to enjoy our food.  Certainly there is nothing wrong with enjoying food, but without a doubt, that enjoyment makes it very difficult to resist putting too much food in our mouths.

4)  We have to keep eating.  When individuals struggle with addiction to tobacco, alcohol or drugs; we tell them they cannot just use them a little.  Smoking “just one” cigarette will quickly reignite the need for more.  Eating too much is no different.  Unfortunately, we have to eat, in order to survive, so we cannot completely remove food from our environment, which means the temptation to overeat is constantly in front of us.

5)  Few enjoy exercising. There are a few “weirdos” who enjoy exercising.  (Actually, I am jealous of those who enjoy physical exercise.)  However, most people do not enjoy exercising, but it still needs to be done.

6 )  The fight is never over.  It is relatively easy to get motivated to do hard things for a short period of time.  In the area of weight loss, the moment one relaxes , the weight starts to come back and often very rapidly.  While one cannot help but lose the intensity after a period of time, one can never consider the weight issue conquered.

Though very difficult,  I believe everyone is able to lose weight.  We are not plants.  Plants manufacture their own calories, but we do not.  If we consume fewer calories than we burn,  we WILL lose weight.  However,  it will not happen by wishing or good intentions or a burst of effort or because others harangue you. 

In order to lose weight you have to:

1)  Make up your mind YOU want to lose weight enough to be uncomfortable in order to accomplish it.  Write out a list of the beneficial things you will accomplish by losing weight and post it where you can review it when the going gets tough.  This is a long term project.

2)  Have realistic goals.  We all want to get down to what we weighed when we graduated from high school or college, but for most of us, that is just not realistic.  One is less likely to get discouraged and quit if you have small attainable goals, then a large difficult to attain goal.  Studies show that even a 10cpound weight loss can have a positive impact on your health.  Set a ten pound goal and then once one reaches it, celebrate and set a new ten pound goal and keep going.

3)  Reduce your portions.  It is not a matter of eating special food or even calorie counting. You do have to cut back on the amount of food you eat.  Do not refill your plate, even if it tastes soooo good.  Avoid sugared drinks.  It is astounding how many calories Americans drink.  Stay away from high calorie snacks.  Limit your eating out, as these meals have huge amounts of calories in them.  If you need help in this area, I think Weight Watchers is the best program in which to be involved.

4)  Schedule exercise.  Since most do not enjoy exercising, you will always find something else you would rather do and it just will not happen.  In order to be regular at exercising, you have to put exercising in your daily schedule.  Exercising adds muscles, so not only are you burning calories while you exercise, but muscles burn more calories than fat, even at rest you will burn more calories.

5)  Keep a constant check on your weight.  When you see that number go down, it is an encouragement to keep going.  When it does not, it should be a motivator to work harder.  Sometimes the number not getting smaller can be discouraging, but do not let that happen.  You are not looking for your weight to change on a daily basis, but a positive trend. 

6)  Do not give up.  Often the weight does not come down as one would hope, but do not quit.  If you are seriously watching what you are eating and exercising regularly, the worse that can happen is you stop gaining weight and you are stronger with more stamina.   In most cases you will slowly and steadily head towards your goal.

 

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5 Comments

  1. Thank you for this, Keith. Weight has plagued me since I was in my 20’s. You are so right. There is no one-size-fits-all-answer, and the determination to lose has to be a fire in your belly, not in your doctor’s belly 🙂 I haven’t given up, although it’s very tempting. And by the way, welcome to the blogging world. I didn’t know you were doing this.

    Reply
  2. Here here! I have metabolic disorder and my biggest pet peeve is when someone speaks to me as if I am a nutritional imbecile. I’ve spent my entire life trying to understand why I was “different”. Why I consumed the recommended diet and exercised and continued to gain weight. So I am extremely well versed in how to be skinny if your body is normal, unfortunately mine is not. I can’t walk around with a sign announcing this fact and 9 times out of 10 very well meaning people come off as pretentious know-it-alls as they give me advice on my diet. It’s nice to hear someone lay it out for those who don’t understand this is a very complex problem which does not have a “one-size fits all” solution.

    Reply
  3. deb

     /  May 14, 2013

    Thank you for this practical advice, and helping me to admit that my weight struggle is not going away on it’s own. I am discouraged that it is not coming off, but encouraged that I can keep trying, and I don’t want to give up. Society’s view towards the obese has changed a lot in the last few years. It’s as if we are a poison that needs to be eradicated. There is a lot of discrimination, and degradation handed out by those who do not have this struggle. Case in point, the CEO of a huge clothing conglomerate who recently stated fat people do not belong in his stores, or wearing his clothing line, because they would bring bad publicity. I was appalled to read this, but know that there are many who hold the same view. What an attitude we are teaching our children…to verbally abuse and hate those who are not perfect in body. You are right when you state “there is not an overweight person who want to be fat”. Thanks again for this blog.

    Reply
  4. Holly

     /  May 17, 2013

    With all due respect Doctor, you are wrong about no one wants to be fat. There is a counterculture movement dedicated to the love of and acceptance of fat bodies and there are those within that culture that have absolutely no desire to lose weight. While I understand that your intentions with this article are good, and I don’t disagree with your opinion that a fat shaming culture is counterproductive, I would recommend that you acquaint yourself with the Health At Every Size movement and perhaps realize that this post is actually part of the shaming culture that makes being fat so hard.

    Reply
  5. I really enjoy your blogs

    Reply

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