Happy New Year!
I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t be more thrilled to close the door on 2020—even with all the uncertainty that still remains ahead.
If nothing else, it’s a welcome reminder that all things eventually come to an end. And that one day soon enough, this pandemic will come to an end, too. But as we all wait patiently for that day to arrive, let’s talk about one thing that hasn’t changed: obesity rates.
Of course, I’ve spent most of my career writing about weight management. And if you ask me, all doctors should give this topic the same amount of attention, considering the fact that obesity is a root cause of just about every chronic illness we face today.
But while I often make it sound easy, I personally know and understand that the path toward permanent weight loss is full of obstacles—not least of which are the many misconceptions and biases that people have surrounding obesity.
Still, weight loss remains the top resolution, year after year—even in the midst of a world-changing pandemic—for a reason.
Statistics point to a larger problem
I recently came across the results of a survey that found that practitioners are seeing an average of 60 to 70 obese or overweight patients every month. And these same doctors are apparently recommending diet changes to a good 85 percent of these patients.
Yet obesity rates are still as high as ever… and are still climbing.
So let me ask you this: Is there any other medical condition where you can imagine 85 percent of sufferers being somehow unable to adhere to treatment recommendations? Just think about it. What if this many heart attack patients refused cardiac rehab? Or if this many COPD patients refused to quit smoking?
It’s easy to dismiss all of these obese patients as being gluttonous, lazy, or lacking willpower. But it’s pretty obvious that there’s a whole lot more going on here.
For one thing, there’s no question that most doctors are giving patients just plain bad advice. I have written about this problem time and again. And I just don’t see it changing as long as our healthcare system continues to operate out of Big Pharma’s deep pockets.
And speaking of Big Pharma, let’s not forget how many of their popular drugs contribute to weight gain—from insulin and beta blockers to steroids.
Let’s not forget about Big Food and Big Agribusiness, either. Our modern food supply is so tainted with antibiotics and growth hormones—not to mention the toxic additives, rancid fats, and high-fructose corn syrup you’ll find in ultra-processed, packaged, and fast foods.
And yet, these fattening Frankenfoods are often the cheapest to buy, thanks to the so-called “Farm Bill”—which subsidizes wheat, corn, and soy crops rather than organic fruits and vegetables from local farmers.
In other words, if eating healthy is prohibitively expensive, our own government is at least partly to blame.
Mind over matter
Of course, it’s not just that processed garbage is cheaper. It’s also irresistible by design—making this less an issue of willpower and more an issue of addiction. And at the very least, the average obese person is a victim of dietary sabotage.
The fact is, sugar lights up the exact same pleasure centers in the brain that cocaine does. And research shows that a diet high in ultra-processed food causes you to eat more, and faster.
Not to mention, there’s the problem of mindset. Weight loss is largely a numbers game, especially in a clinical setting. But in the end, that can prove terribly counterproductive.
That’s just one reason why I hate numbers… and never dictate my patients’ ideal weight. I also discourage them from getting on a scale more than once per week. (Weight fluctuates day-to-day for a lot of reasons.)
Losing just five to ten percent of your body weight, however, can mitigate an awful lot of risk factors. So I always encourage my patients to take their weight loss one small step at a time.
Because at the end of the day, I don’t think anyone chooses to be unhealthy. It’s just that little indiscretions add up. (In fact, one of the things I observed during the pandemic, for example, is that when people started to eat out again, their weight also started to creep back up.)
That’s why consistency is so important. It’s also why I ask my patients what they eat at every single visit. (Meanwhile, studies indicate that only 13 percent of patients get any dietary counseling beyond “eat less, exercise more.” But what kind of guidance is that?!)
Because while diets can be simple, it is still extremely tough to overcome your body’s drive to eat. And we all need proper support and attention—especially when it comes to our relationship with food.
So, I encourage you to order a copy of my A-List Diet book to kick off your new year. It may not be the first diet you ever go on. But if you stick with me, I promise you that it will be the last. After all, “dieting” the proper way can be fun. And my A-List Diet is full of delicious recipes using fresh produce, lean meats, and more. So don’t put your health on the backburner any longer… start cooking delicious meals at home, starting today.
“Obesity and the Bitter Pill of Truth.” Medscape Medical News, 09/23/2020. (medscape.com/viewarticle/937603)