Why Can’t We Just Lose the Weight Already?

Obesity is still a significant problem in this country. According to 2016 national data, adult obesity rates now exceed 35 percent in four states, 30 percent in 25 states and are above 20 percent in all states. Type 2 Diabetes, once an adult disease, is now found in children and teens. Regardless of actual weight, feelings of being overweight cause psychological stress for people of all ages. The weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar industry with a huge advertising budget. Many people can successfully lose weight with low-calorie or low-carb diets, but the majority regain the weight within a year or two. Here are some factors that make long-term weight loss difficult.

(1) Our Bodies Naturally Resist Weight Loss
Our bodies were designed to help us hang onto weight when calorie intake is suddenly lowered. Your body assumes that food is scarce and tries to stop you from starving to death by slowing down your metabolism so you burn calories more slowly.

(2) Genetics Play a Large Role
If you have family genetics for large frames and excess weight, you’re going to have a much harder time being thin. Perhaps in days gone by, these families were engaged in physical activities, such as farming, that required strength and endurance.

(3) Our Environments Don’t Support Healthy Behavior
Most Americans work more hours and take fewer days of vacation than people in other countries. People living near large urban centers often spend hours commuting. Plane travel has become a way of life in the corporate world. Many poor people work more than one job, can’t afford childcare, and have little leisure time. many poor urban neighborhoods lack parks or sidewalks. All of these limit opportunities for exercise and restrict time in a way that makes it challenging to cook and eat healthy foods.

(4) Fast Food is Cheap and Easy
Without advance preparation, it is all too easy after a full day or work and commuting to stop by the MacDonald’a drive through and get a high-fat burger, fries, and sugary soda for a quick and affordable fix.

(5) Emotional Eating
If you have a history of trauma, you may turn to food as a source of emotional comfort when other avenues are lacking. Food is always available because you need to eat, so it’s more difficult to avoid triggers and abstinence is not an option.

Long-term weight loss requires extensive and long-term lifestyle changes. Many people do not understand the complexity and difficulty of losing weight and tend to blame being overweight on lack of willpower. In fact, both biological and environmental factors make weight-loss difficult. Most obese people require nutritional counseling, increased activity, and cognitive-behavioral therapy for months or years in order to keep the weight off. Bariatric surgery can be effective, but often causes suffering due to medical complications. Without behavior change, the weight will be regained. Any long-term weight loss plan needs to address the reasons why YOU overeat, increase your self-awareness, and provide you with psychological coping tools well as information about diet and exercise.

Another option is to focus on body acceptance rather than weight loss. Feeling self-compassionate and empowered can help protect you from stress due to societal stigma around weight. Even if you want to lose weight, it’s just as important to focus on loving and accepting yourself as on food. That being said, avoiding processed food, too much sugar, sodas, and corn oils can improve your overall health and is a better strategy than stringent dieting.

Comments 2

  1. September 16, 2012

    That's a catchy title, Melanie. And it is quite the perplexing issue. Americans are far too overweight, and what is most worrisome is the lack of worry from certain segments.

    I'm all for a healthy body image. And too thin is not in. Or shouldn't be.

    Losing weight, like going to therapy, comes down to motivation. And we all make time for what we value. Ironic that we can't "see" if therapy is working, but we see the numbers on the scale and hear the comments by others regarding weight.

  2. September 16, 2012

    Hi Linda,

    Thanks so much for commenting. i agree that motivate is a big part of it. i would add that it's motivation plus skills, knowledge and support. losing weight often requires a major lifestyle change and a big time commitment to shopping, preparing healthy food, exercising etc. it's much easier when your family is on board and supporting you in taking this time.

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