More to obesity than calories



42% of American adults will be obese by 2030 reads a Los Angeles headline.  The article goes on to discuss the high cost of medical treatment that the people vulnerabile to obesity will require. 

The most telling and optimistic part of this article to me, occurs in the last paragraph.  Can you see why?

Journal after journal have reported disappointing results for programs to help obese adults lose weight. And an estimated 80% of American dieters regain their lost weight, causing many to end up more flabby than when they started. In a study published this year in Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers wearily admitted that a more realistic goal than substantial weight loss might be to get obese adults to stop gaining, and to whittle their waist sizes modestly — which can at least improve metabolic function.

Instant gratification wishes on the part of those who want weight loss, promises of those who offer fast weight loss programs and devices, and researchers looking for quick solutions are leading us down a false trail.  We live in a society that supports instant gratification.  We want what we want, and we want it now.  And we want it faster.  A three second wait for a website to load is too much. 

We want fast weight loss, even if it took years to accumulate the weight and live with it. But the cherished desire for instant gratification, even to the point of believing we are entitled to it, cannot be achieved in the weight loss arena.  Sustained weight loss that brings you to a healthy weight you can maintain takes time.

There are no overnight success stories.

Over the past 30 years the rate of developing obesity has slowed, but it's still rising with no leveling off anticipated.  Experts at the Weight of the Nation conference in Washington say not only is obesity increasing but the medical bills that go along with addressing weight related medical problems are also on the rise.

My point is that the emotional side to obesity needs to be thoroughly addressed or we'll never see the end of this medically compromising and life limiting condition.

For example, if a person feels or is or remembers being financially strapped, buying cheap, fast and high calorie food can soothe financial anxiety for a moment.  The person has power to buy and power to eat.  Plus the food, especially sugary food, will kick off a chemical reward system within the body itself.

A similar scenario develops when a person is lonely, afraid or feels hopeless or hopeless and resentful. When he or she believes and feels that he or she has no power to change his or her life for the better, eating can bring a soothing distraction AND kick off an internal chemical reward system.

Treatment for a person in or approaching an obese state needs to be done in a holistic manner, addressing the whole person with respect, compassion, knowledge and patience.

The layers of fat are not isolated from the human within those layers.  She or he developed that fat for a reason.  An effective weight loss treatment needs to be gentle, patient, explore the emotional side of the person as well as the physical.  It needs to help the person accept, with peace and non-judgment, slow and meaningful progress that involves  a change, not only in eating, but in emotional resilience.  

This takes patience, ongoing work and a willingness to go, with care, guidance and protection, to where your vulnerabilities lead you.

  • Have you tried instant weight loss treatments?
  • What was your experience?
  • Have you lost weight and maintained a healthy weight for years?
  • What was and is your experience?

Joanna Poppink, MFT

Los Angeles psychotherapist, speaker

Author of Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder.


0 # Mine started with my mother, by the ageshh 2012-06-01 01:28
Mine started with my mother, by the age of 6 or 7 I had already learned to equate food with being loved and cared for...when I was good she bought me treats, when I ate them and enjoyed them, she bought me more; when I ate my meals until the plate was clean I was good, if I left things I was ungrateful and bad; when I wanted to save something for later, I was either ungrateful for not wanting to eat it there and then, or if it was half eaten, like a cake or a candy bar, she couldn't bear the sight of half-eaten food, rather than wrap it up for later, she would make me either finish it or throw it in the trash, and on the occasions I didn't want or like something she would threaten me with never buying or making me any nice treats again, as I was so ungrateful...and so I learned that the best policy by far was to just eat everything that happened to come my way, regardles of whether I really wanted it, or enjoyed it.

By 7, I was overweight, and she told me so often how she despaired of me, why did I have to be so fat, why wasn't I thin so she could dress me all pretty and have people say how beautiful I was (like she could with my sister)...but no, I was the fat, ugly one, the problem child!

And so they started, the crash diets, that she used to put me on and force me to stick was quite the norm in the 70s to crash diet (for adults anyway), and I happily went along with it, to try to please my mother, to try to make her love me - I was too young and naive to see then that she would never love me (I was the 'accident' that made her family disown her, and forced her into marriage, and into a lifestyle she hated - she was too depressed and resentful to bond with me, and probably why I was given so many treats in the first place - to try to placate her own guilt, to try to make me feel loved)

But that it how it started...and it ran as a theme throughout my life, I was either being plied with sweet treats, and having to eat everything in sight, or dutifully adhering to one of her crash diets...

...and on it went into adulthood, I have never know what it is to maintain a stable weight, I was always losing ot gaining, and I could always gain it twice as fast as I lost it, which put the pressure on to restrict further and further to try to lose it as quickly as I'd re-gaimed it, if not more quickly...

...and each time, I regained a bit more that I'd lost, and so over that 30 yrs, I went from plump, to curvy, to fat, to obese, to morbidly obese.

And even with ED therapy - it's not easy to change those habits, I have had some success, but not without relapsing,...when things get really tough, I do revert back to food, but I guess I have to remain determined that I will get things back under control, and that I will beat it in the long-term
0 # Hi Shh I feel the emotion in what you wmylifex2 2012-06-01 06:25
Hi Shh
I feel the emotion in what you write. I think food is equated with such powerful emotions for all of us here, regardless of what we do with it. I am struggling with going from not eating to eating alot and its just awful how i feel about myself. But I try to make each day new. Just like it sounds you are doing. One day at a time.

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