Is Everything you know about Obesity true?

Last week an article from Huffington Post entitled, “Everything you know about obesity is wrong”, went viral. The article covered obesity, weight loss, patients, doctors, biology, psychology, the environment, and almost everything else, and how it’s all connected. In this post, I share my thoughts about some of the topics in the article.

A person who has a higher than average weight reading the article is likely to be left feeling hopeless about losing weight and slightly more hopeful about just accepting it. In fact, when my own weight was in the obese category, I remember feeling hopeless about my ability to lose weight. I began transitioning into thinking, “I will just be fat.”  I started making my own fat jokes, “it ain’t over till I sing!” (get it?) By the way, the article also reminded me that something happened to my brain at my highest weight and I lost all semblance of a connection that what I put in my mouth had anything at all to do with my body weight. Yes, I honestly remember that experience clearly.

Like anything else, the article illuminated some truth, but not the whole truth. The following are some highlights:

  • Almost all people gain almost all their weight back with diet & exercise (they maintain 5-10 lbs weight loss after 1-2 yrs). Appetite suppressants improve results. Surgery improves results more.
  • Weight bias exists and can have negative effects. I am sorry for the pain anyone has ever experienced from being, or feeling judged or marginalized due to their weight. I wish everyone with any weight took to heart the sign in our scale room: “YOU ARE NOT YOUR WEIGHT!.” Here I would like to say if I have ever said or done anything like any of the doctors in the article, please let me know. I bet that most of the doctors in the article may have said or done something harmful without realizing its effect.
  • Exercise and healthy food affect health regardless of weight. Studies also show that weight affects health independent of exercise and healthy food. All three can be true at the same time. We live in a very all or nothing society right now. Both/and is usually closer to the truth, as in both healthy eating, and exercise, and body weight all affect our health.
  • Genetics affect our weight. But it turns out that genetics are not our destiny. Genes can be turned on and off by lifestyle changes.
  • There are people with high weight who don’t have metabolic complications like diabetes and cholesterol. This could be true for people who eat more fats than sugars, the weight goes more to their back than their front, which can be hard on their joints.
  • It’s fair to say that the causes of excess weight can be quite complicated. Environment, social contacts, biology, psychology, nutrition, physical activity, marketing, genetics, and even more factors can affect one’s weight.

The Huffington Post article is long and raises a lot of different points about a lot of things. So what I would like to say is that if you or anyone feels happy and healthy at a higher than average weight, then that should be accepted. We should accept ourselves and others while also moving in the direction of greater health and happiness as we understand those experiences for ourselves. If you feel like a failure for not being able to lose weight and keep it off through diet and exercise, please please don’t, as doing so is extremely rare. If, however, you feel unhappy or unhealthy, you don’t need to give up hope. Why? Because there was at least one major piece of information that was left out of the article.

What the article failed to mention is that our bodies behave very differently when we are in a stress response than when we are in a relaxation response. In the stress response, our appetite and metabolism are different than in a relaxation response. It is stressful to have someone yell at you, “Eat less!” It certainly is insensitive on their part in the very least. However, we can learn to change the way that stress happening outside of us affects us inside. This is what we call growing inside in order to shrink outside, because peace of mind protects from piece of cake.

So read the article (or don’t). Talk to me and Patrice about your reaction so that we can have a rich conversation about your thoughts and questions and how we can best help you be the happiest, healthiest version of yourself in your own eyes and not in anyone else’s.