So many reality shows follow people on their weight loss journeys. But is everything we're watching based on fact? Dr. Ali Zentner shares the truth behind some of the most common weight loss concepts.
Calories in Equal Calories Out
Weight loss is not that simple. Not everyone burns the same amount of calories and how we regulate our metabolism does not operate on a basic math equation of calories in and calories out. There are a number of variables that alter this, including how old we are, how much weight we've lost in the past, our muscle mass, and certain hormonal responses to food.
Diets Have a Beginning, Middle and End
This couldn't be further from the truth. Although there are phases to weight loss there is no “beginning, middle and end”. It's harder to maintain weight loss than lose the weight initially and this new phase is called "maintenance." The concept of weight loss is lifelong, it’s not a step-wise process. The biggest issue out there is that dieting provides a temporary fix for a permanent problem. Weight loss is something you do forever. Keeping weight off is often harder than losing it. It takes a long term commitment and a lifetime of change.
All Bodies are Created Equal
Think about it for a minute; your eye colour, height and body type are all genetically hard wired. How you regulate heart rate, body temperature and all other normal bodily functions are physiologically regulated by the body. How we lose and gain weight is also influenced by our body chemistry and physiology. More importantly like all other basic human functions there is a huge genetic component to how we lose and gain weight. Not all bodies are created equal. People need to have in depth discussions about what they're doing right and what they're doing wrong. You have to try different weight loss methods to see what works best for you, because what you’re best friend might be doing may not work the same for you.
Bariatric Surgery is a Cop Out
Obesity is a disease and not a social condition. Like any disease it requires evidence-based scientific treatments including surgery and behavioural therapy. There are patients who respond incredibly well to one treatment or another. Where a certain treatment fails and another is successful, the question is not one of "last chance therapy" or a cop-out choice. It's a matter of choosing the right therapy for the right patient. On the contrary, modern day approaches to bariatric surgery have shown to be incredibly effective for long term permanent weight loss in the appropriate patient.
Obesity is a Problem, Not a Disease
Like any disease, obesity has a genetic predisposition, a physiological mechanism and environmental influences. How much of each of these are at work in any one patient is variable. No-one asks to be obese, just like no one asks to be diabetic or have cancer or have heart disease. As a society we will be judged based on how we treat our most vulnerable and how we judge the most human of behaviours. As a disease, obesity deserves our respect; as a society, obese patients deserve our empathy not our judgement.
Weight loss is far more complicated then these shows are making it out to be. These shows lead us on to think that it's easier than it really is and they can create unrealistic expectations. Weight loss should be complicated because you're fighting physiology