Losing weight is a scary and daunting task.
2/3 of adults and 1/3 of children in America are affected by overweight or obesity. And there is no escaping to the fact that obesity raises the risk for diabetes, heart disease and other medical problems. That is why the prevention and treatment of obesity is such a prevalent topic in healthcare.
If you were to ask an average person on the street why some people are obese and why others are not, they would most likely say, “because they eat too much”. And that might be true but it is too simple, it ignores the deeper, more important question…why do certain people eat too much?… Research shows that some people eat more than others because they show differences in a biological system that regulates food intake. And this system is largely controlled by heredity. In fact, studies show that body weight is about 80 percent attributable to the genes one inherits. By comparison, height is about 85 percent attributable to genetics. So it seems logical to say that if obesity is partly due to genetic tendencies, then the treatment should be more than simply “eat less, move more”.
There are countless weight loss strategies out there, but many have proven to be infective and short term, particularly for those who are morbidly obese. Among the morbidly obese, a very small percentage succeed in losing a significant amount of weight and maintain that weight loss with basic lifestyle modifications. The most lasting success tends to follow weight loss surgery. But it CAN happen through lifestyle modifications, and most that have success are usually teamed up with certified healthcare professionals to develop and maintain an effective weight loss program. In these cases, usually a combination of “therapies” are used: dietary modification and behavior modification.
Losing Weight with Dietary Modifications
For many who take the dietary approach to losing weight, it ends up becoming a “yo-yo” cycle. A little weight loss, gain it back (and then some)…try it again, gain it back again…and so on. In fact, 90 percent of obese patients regain their weight back within two years of starting a dieting program. It is believed that this is largely due to genetics and an innate response to caloric restriction: our bodies go into “starvation mode” and respond in a protective way—trying to maintain its weight and store any source of fuel it gets! So, if you do diet, make sure it is healthily. Seek professional help. Once again, significant weight loss can happen through dietary changes! And it does for a small percentage of people. Regardless, healthy eating habits are instrumental in maintaining a healthy weight—even if it is not the method you are able to get to your healthy weight.
Losing Weight with Behavioral Modifications
The goal of behavior modification therapy is to change your tendencies and habits to promote healthy choices. Examples are: setting realistic long-term and short-term goals, recording your diet and exercise patterns, identifying high risk situations and avoiding them, rewarding specific actions, adopting realistic ideas of healthy weight loss and body image, and developing a support network. Exercise is a key factor in behavioral therapy—it greatly increases your chance of long-term weight loss. Exercise can be intimidating for the morbidly obese though. Don’t let this stop you! Start small. Take a five minute walk in the morning and then another five minute walk in the evening. Park at the far end of parking lots, not on the front row. Stand up and stretch for 30 seconds every 20 minutes at work(don’t let yourself sit still for long periods of time!). Make your decision count TOWARDS your health, not against it. Although some experience success with behavior modification therapy, most patients once again only achieve short-term weight loss (usually for the first year)—once again due to gentic tendencies. But these behavioral modifications are very important to learn and will be critical in maintaining a healthy lifestyle after weight loss is achieved.
Losing Weight with Weight Loss Surgery
Many people who are chronically obese and have been unsuccessful at losing weight in other ways, opt for bariatric or weight loss surgery. These surgeries are about getting healthy and freeing yourself from the restrictions that severe obesity imposes on your life. And you will find that all of the dietary and behavioral modifications you have learned in your journey will be important basic behaviors leading up and following your surgery (to ensure lasting results). If you have are obese and cannot beat it with lifestyle modifications, bariatrics or surgery might be exactly what you need to get where you need to be. It is not the “easy way out”. But is a way to get the cat down from the tree.