The news this week about the Biggest Loser contestants gaining back most if not more of the weight they lost is no surprise to clinicians who treat people with eating disorders, nor is it surprising to anyone who has read this blog.
The initial cause in the rise of obesity is related to several changes in lifestyle over the last few decades. The abundance of processed, non-nutritious foods which are highly caloric and also quite addictive has wreaked havoc on the average person's diet and exposed weaknesses in the human ability to navigate hunger and fullness. In addition, changes in transportation and careers have led to much more sedentary lives. These two facts have led to a spike in obesity and diseases that follow such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Treating obesity, however, is not about changing these variables but instead addressing a metabolic disorder caused by excessive weight gain. Attacking the problem head on with swift weight loss is never successful, as decades of research have shown: nothing new in the Biggest Loser data. The only form of success involves long term, permanent lifestyle changes and slow, steady weight loss. The key is that the changes are not temporary: the diet paradigm does not work.
The psychological manifestations of weight gain in our current society make weight loss seem urgent. Many people feel that obesity must be fixed before facing any challenges in life, professional, personal and emotional, a condition I have called pathological obesity. These people spend years focusing solely on quick fixes for weight loss and forgo all other components of their life. The urgency leads to a variety of unsuccessful diets that result in higher and higher weights.
The cure for obesity involves slow and steady changes that require an enormous amount of patience. It also requires psychological help to face life's challenges concurrently to accept the thought that life must continue and progress, even if one is still overweight.
In honor of this news about the Biggest Loser, I will repost the most read article about obesity from this blog as well. Meanwhile, the next post will address the underlying metabolic problem in treating obesity in words everyone can understand. It will truly explain the role of weight in weight loss.