What’s the key to losing weight? It seems like everyone has an opinion and no one has a solution these days. Am I right or what? Let’s talk about Obesity.
We are in the middle of a GLOBAL OBESITY epidemic right now. We freak out about things like Zika virus but heart disease is the #1 cause of death in women AND men in the United States. You know what causes heart disease? Obesity.
The Obesity Epidemic
Portion sizes, limiting carbs, intermittent fasting – what is the key to turning it around? I believe that answer, unfortunately, is not that simple.
Believe it or not, I actually really LIKE obesity medicine (and I don’t just mean medication). I know, what a weirdo. While many Doctors dislike treating obesity in and of itself, I like it because I get it.
I have struggled with weight myself my whole adult life. Having started Phen-Phen (remember that one?) right before my 18th birthday, it was a process of gain-loss-gain more-lose less for years. I know my biggest weight shames and I remember not wanting to go places for fear that people might actually see me looking like that. I was reaching all of my goals externally through medical school and motherhood yet failing in such an obvious way to others. And I know so MANY others feel the same. That’s why I love weight loss medicine.
Having had a “weight loss program” at my office since I started practice, I’m sad to say I’m not running short on patients. You would think that after 8 years I would be making a dent. I have helped many patients lose weight. Some do awesome with loss, some don’t. Some lose most of their excess weight and keep it off, most regain it. That’s the reality of obesity today.
Patients and Weight Loss
I attended an obesity conference last fall. The main speaker, Dr. Michael Snyder, a well-respected bariatric surgeon practicing in Denver, asked the group of physicians attending the conference, “How many of you have had a patient lose 100 pounds or more WITHOUT weight loss surgery?”
In a group of around 100 Doctors, 3 of us raised our hands. 3 Doctors had patients lose over 100 pounds – that’s 3% of the DOCTORS, not the patients.
I am proud to say that I I was one of the 3 Doctors. Having helped 4 patients lose over 100 pounds without bariatric surgery in my career, I was pretty proud of myself. I WORKED with those patients. I saw them monthly, used dietary changes and education with the help of a nutritionist or dietician, and assisted with medication. And I became VERY close to these patients as this weight doesn’t just melt off overnight. They worked hard at it improving their habits and the weight came off.
What’s interesting, though, was Dr. Snyder’s follow-up question and how relevant it truly was. He asked, “Now, how many of you have had those patients KEEP the 100 pounds off for more than 2 years WITHOUT surgery?” Those 3 hands went down. Not one Doctor of around 100 had seen their patients keep the weight off. Myself included. Ouch.
What have I learned from my obese patients?
OBESITY IS ABOUT MORE THAN DIET.
Let’s start by considering this question – Why do you eat? Are you eating for purposes other than hunger?
I logged my eating habits for a week and came up with the following list of reasons why I eat that do not include hunger:
- Reward – by far my biggest reason. A gift to myself after doing anything really.
- Fear of future hunger – It’s lunchtime and I may not have time later
- Boredom – Hmm.. what looks good?
- Entertainment – What is a movie without popcorn?
- Joy – This goes closely with reward for me. I’m happy I did well.
- Celebration – Graduation, award ceremony, winning a game
- Anger – Oreos, oreos, oreos
- Sadness – Not much makes me happier than cookies when I’m down
- Habit – Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between of course
- Convenience – Fast food is much easier with long daily drives. Grab before you get on the road.
- Custom – Thanksgiving, Labor Day BBQ, Drinks at the show
- Coping – I will be able to handle my kids better if I just take a moment with this ice cream
- Control – I will eat this because I’m the adult and I can
And how many of those have to do with a physiologic NEED to eat? NONE How many of those have to do with the MIND? All the rest.
OBESITY STARTS IN YOUR MIND
If you ate only what your body needs to be healthy, until you were no longer hungry (not sickly full), and only when you were HANGRY, chances are very slim you would be overweight.
Obesity is about PLEASURE. It is psychological and bred into us from a young age. Birthday celebration? FOOD. Family get-together? FOOD. Holiday? FOOD. Date night? FOOD. And no one is settling for birthday candles on top of a flipping watermelon. We learn to associate food with pleasure in order to survive, I believe, but take it way too far in today’s culture.
Creating a Foodie
My husband, God bless him, has been struggling with his weight recently. And I partly blame myself. I LOVE food. When I met Brian, he loved food a lot less than he does now. He used to know his boundaries – as silly as they were.
We took a trip early on with our kids to Colorado. Having just one daughter, I was so excited to cook for a family (Brian has 3 boys). I brought along recipes and was prepared with all sorts of homemade goodies. The first night I made a casserole and bought a can of corn for the side.
Brian looked at that can of corn and asked (as he so kindly does), “What is that?” “Corn,” I responded. I was seriously starting to wonder – I mean, corn is pretty obvious. “I only eat corn ON the cob,” Brian responded. Needless to say, that meal did NOT end well.
What I did realize then, though, was that Brian was more of an eat-to-live kind of guy. He had been a runner and food was just a means to an end. He would just shut it down if it didn’t look right. NOT ME. And what’s sad is that I have been a BIG source of converting Brian over. He has realized that he likes A LOT of different types of food. He still doesn’t eat corn from a can, though.
START A JOURNEY WITH ME TODAY
I’m giving you an obesity challenge today: For the next WEEK, write down your emotional eating triggers, the times you are eating that have NOTHING to do with hunger.
That simple. The easiest way will be to track the times and emotions on your phone. Or, if you are ready to invest, get a journal. Actually, get that journal. There is a lot of good stuff to come. We are starting to examine obesity today. And if you aren’t worried about yourself, I would like you to take a second look at your spouse or your kids.
To start changing your weight, you need to be able to truly recognize your bad habits. We want to just jump over to the next fad diet and have someone “fix” it for us. That won’t last. It just doesn’t. You can’t out willpower the rest of your life. Start by realizing how you really got here.
Simple Solution: Obesity – it’s so much bigger than just a diet. Start examining yourself today. Write down all of the reasons that you eat for reasons other than HUNGER for the next week.
And plan to join me on Friday’s for your Diet Enlightened plan of action.
Want to know how your state measures up with the obesity epidemic? Check out this map: https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/prevalence-maps.html
For More Blog Posts on Obesity: https://doctormome.com/post/i-cant-lose-weight-is-it-my-thyroid/