What’s wrong with this picture? About 45 million Americans go on a diet each year, and yet two-thirds of Americans are overweight. The commonplace quote is that 95% of people fail in their diets, and while conclusive stats are hard to come by, the only serious argument against that number is one that says the diets fail them, not the other way around. Why so much attention and so many fruitless efforts?
First, let’s face it, obesity is near epidemic proportions in the United States, with almost 40% of adults over age 20 weighing in as obese and more than 70% qualifying as overweight. Weight problems have become a sweeping national characteristic, and it extends to people of ever-younger ages. In 2017, 59.9% of all high school students said they were trying to lose weight. And overweight is connected with at least three of the top 10 deadliest diseases, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes. As a nation, we have a big problem, both in scale and in the seriousness of its consequences.
What You’re Up Against
The reasons diets haven’t worked could fill a few books, but they boil down to these. Your body isn’t wired for diets to work, because it slows your metabolism when you slow your food intake. Your brain isn’t wired for them to work, because it steers you toward a roller-coaster of binging to make up for deprivation. And human civilization is not behind you, either, because food has meanings and values that go way beyond nutrition. It would be a rare and determined hero, indeed, who could overturn all these stacked decks.
With unrealistic images of the body and confusing information about weight loss scattered nearly everywhere, it turns out to be a better idea to set goals that are more personal and more realistic, achieving a weight that is uniquely healthy for each person and preventing or halting the preoccupation with it.
The Price of Preoccupation
There are consequences, too, not only from overeating, but from other disorders in our vital relationship with food. It is estimated that more than 30 million people in the U.S. suffer from eating disorders that include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, among others. And eating disorders have been called the deadliest behavioral disorder of all.
These deadly disorders can be prevented, however, and they can be prevented from getting worse once they develop. That this good news is so little known might be the saddest part of this sorrowful story.
The Lifestyle Approach
Many of the real solutions to finding and keeping your own healthy weight are surprising. They include unexpected advice such as “stop dieting,” and seemingly unrelated steps like, “Identify and build on your own special talents, traits, and interests.” Getting enough sleep is part of the picture, too. The University of California at Irvine has compiled a handy list of these “Healthy Living Habits for a Lifetime.”
Because there’s a lot more to it than just taking a stab at a diet, why not get some good information and support? To schedule an appointment with us at Global Family Medicine, call us at 843.815.6468. Together, we’ll get started.