Opinion · Weight Loss

“There’s No Cure for Obesity”

I read a lot of articles about obesity. A lot. I read so I can prepare myself, so I know what to expect, so I am not surprised by side effects of losing weight like being cold, or not being able to eat the same amount of calories as someone who has not lost weight etc. I came across this article the other day and I shared it on the WeightWatchers.ca forums where I hang out.

The article is called “There’s No Cure for Obesity” by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, a Canadian obesity doctor, and I highly recommend it if you are in the processes of losing a fair amount of weight or trying to maintain a weight loss. The point of the article can be summed up as:  “If you don’t like your life while you’re losing weight, you’re going to gain your weight back.”

I shared it on the forum because sometimes there are posts written (usually by  newcomers) that frustrate me. I don’t answer them – or at least I try not to because I know tone is a difficult thing to assess online. I don’t answer them because there are too many of them and I feel like a broken record. The truth of the matter is is this: IF YOU WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT AND MAINTAIN THE LOSS YOU WILL HAVE TO CHANGE EVERY ASPECT OF LIFE AND YOUR APPROACH TO FOOD. THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS. THIS IS FOR LIFE. PERMANENT WEIGHT LOSS REQUIRES LIFELONG CHANGES. If you are not prepared to make lifelong changes the chances are you will regain or you won’t even last long enough to reach your goal.

Yes. It’s frustrating when we think we’re being “good” but we don’t lose weight.

Yes. It’s frustrating when we don’t lose at the rate we think we should/deserve to.

Yes. It’s frustrating when we gain.

Yes. It’s frustrating when we end up with loose skin or wrinkles we didn’t have before.

Yes. It’s hard to not eat the same amount/type of food etc. as other people around us.

Yes. It’s frustrating not to have at the “perfect” body when we do reach our goal weight that we thought we’d have.

Yes. It can be demoralizing and/or daunting to know that you might have to track what you eat for the rest of your life.

Yes. You have to exercise.

Yes. Exercise has to become a regular part of life.

Yes. You have to learn to enjoy eating less and moving more.

Yes. This is for life.

Yes. We all have our burdens to bear.

Yes. Life is not fair.

Yes. You can do this.

Yes. Some of it will become second nature and some of it will not.

Yes. You can do this.

The comments/posts that frustrate me include those where I can clearly read that the original poster views Weight Watchers (or any “diet”) as temporary, as a means to an end – especially when I read about cutting out foods they don’t need to cut out or over-exercising. I think sometimes we can set ourselves up for failure when we think any changes we are making are temporary and then blame either ourselves (our lack of willpower) or the program/diet etc.  for not being able to keep at it. I think that’s unfortunate because it’s not about the temporary big changes, but rather the permanent little changes that add up in the end. To succeed we need to change our lives. This is a truism. We do not need to change our lives in a matter of days or even weeks or months. New habits, new routines take a long time to stick. True change comes not from willpower, but rather from commitment, perseverance, and with time. At least this is what I believe.

One bad week, one bad month, heck one bad year does not make us a failure. It does not mean all is/was for naught. It means we need to keep at it and persevere. Perhaps we need to reassess our strategies. Perhaps we need to change a habit here or a habit there. We need to look at what we are doing and ask ourselves – am I am happy doing this for the rest of my life? Do I think I can finally stop this when I reach my goal weight? These are the questions to ask ourselves. We can all succeed in the long term, we just have to find the right way for us and to make sure we are not committing to too much too soon. We need set ourselves up for success and not failure. We can do this.

And that’s my rant. Also, if you like the article I highly recommend you check out Dr. Yoni Freedhoff’s blog: Weighty Matters.  It’s a good mix of blog posts, medical info, book reviews, and general info.


Opinion · Weight Loss

Weekend Watching: Man Who Lost 400lbs & Regained

I’ve just heard about this story, I’m not American so it hadn’t shown up in my news over the years, about a man named David Smith who, at his heaviest, weighed 650lbs. He had gone public with his weight struggle and asked for help. He managed to lose 400lbs and has since re-gained over 250 of those pounds and is now close to 500lbs.

You can watch the 5 min video from NBC Today here on the Huffington Post.

I have to say, my heart goes out to him. The struggle to maintain is so much harder. In the video he says some very poignant/important things: that when he became thin and a good looking guy that it blew his mind away and he didn’t know how to deal with it. He didn’t know how to cope. He also said: As much as you work on the outside, you have to work on the inside, because if your foundation isn’t built up you’ll just crumble down.

I do think food addiction and the resulting obesity is like any other addiction (alcohol, smoking, drugs etc.), but I would say the struggle to maintain is even harder because unlike drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol, you can’t live without eating. Going cold turkey doesn’t work here.

If you don’t change/address the inside, what leads you to eat and why then it will come back. Also, if you do not give yourself time to get used to your new body, who you now are, then I think the likelihood of regaining is exponentially increased.  I truly believe that people underestimate just how vastly different life is when you are obese versus a weight in the healthy range. When you lose a significant amount of weight EVERY SINGLE FACET of life changes and it takes a lot of time to get used to it, to accept it, to not judge or berate yourself for past choices, and to move forward without falling back on past habits. If you don’t give yourself the time to get used to the new you, it’s easier to let the weight & habits come back because you won’t see the change.

Whenever I get frustrated at the speed (or lack thereof) of my weight loss, or my 6-months in the 160s. I have to think about this. What’s the alternative? For me it is better to maintain, to go at it slowly now then to rush things. I still have my struggles, I am still getting used to the new person in the mirror, but each day, week, month it gets easier.

A recent NSV (non-scale victory) for me is that I’m starting to be able to go into a clothing store and pick out clothes that will fit me. My spatial sense of my body is starting to catch up with my actual body. I bought a couple dresses at a garage sale last month without trying them on first (they were $2, can you blame me?!) and they both fit when I brought them home. For me, this is a HUGE step forward.

I truly hope he can get his life on track as he says. The 250lb+ gain in 2 years will have done more damage to his internal organs. I wish him strength.

Opinion · Weight Loss

Weekend Watching: Weight of the Nation

Recently I found out about the HBO Documentary Weight of the Nation, a four-part documentary series looking at obesity in the United States. Quite frankly, I think most information is not that far off for most Western Industrialized nations. In Canada we may not have the same level of fast food, candy, ridiculous portions, but we’re getting there and we’re getting there fast. I, pardon the pun, devour information on obesity. I like reading articles – I prefer scientific ones, rather than magazines – on the causes, effects, and consequences of obesity, weight loss, and weight loss maintenance and thus I found this to be a fascinating series. I watched it over the course of the long weekend a couple weeks back and in case you haven’t yet heard of it, I’d like to share it with you.

As I get closer to my goal weight and the inevitable challenge of maintaining my weight loss I am also reading about why it is often hard to maintain. One of the key reasons that seems to be addressed quite a bit in medical blogs and articles is that with obesity and the resulting weight loss our body is forever changed metabolically and that that never goes away. Here is a short video (1:41) that explains it briefly. The basic premise is: take two people at a healthy weight. Person 1 got to this weight through weight loss and Person 2 has been at this weight for their life. Person 1 CANNOT eat the same amount of calories as Person2 to maintain their weight. They must eat approximately 20% less. Here, he explains it with pictures! :

Is this fair? Oh certainly not. Is life fair? Well I think we all learned the answer to that one when were children. For me, it’s about information, if I know this then I can prepare myself. Complaining or wishing it not true isn’t going to do me a lick of good. Is it fair that an alcoholic cannot have that one summer drink on the patio with friends? No, but that’s one’s lot in life. Everyone has their own challenges and struggles and there is no use in comparing ourselves to someone else because in the end we’ll just end up miserable. We need to face our challenges not wish them away.

Here’s the trailer for the doc and then I’ve added links to all four parts, each is just over an hour long. If you go on their website you’ll see bonus shorts and articles as well.

Part 1: Consequences

Part 2: Choices

Part 3: Children in Crisis

Part 4: Challenges

Happy Weekend All!


The Irony!

Ha! So right after I post my xmas strategy entry, my blog finally gets added to the outcampaign.org website and twitter. Oh, the irony. For those who don’t know or haven’t clicked on the scarlett A in my blog it is a link to Richard Dawkin’s Out Campaign.

The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism

The campaign is a great initiative in my opinion – it encourages atheists to “come out” about their stance on religion/god/gods. I have never been quiet about where I stand on this spectrum. I was raised Roman Catholic in an Eastern European household, however we were never very religious – church on Sundays when I was kid that eventually became just xmas and easter, and then just easter and then never. I attended catholic elementary and high school. I have no beef with that as (looking back) I realized that I went to a very progressive school – yes, I had religion class every year, but it NEVER interferred with any other aspect of our studies. In science we still disected animals of various sizes and evolution was a HUGE part of our education. I even remember a field trip to the back rooms of the ROM to view skeletons of human ancestors. I know I am very fortunate to have experienced what I did – not many catholic schools are as liberal as mine was.

It was actually my first year of high school – in grade 9 religion – that I realized I didn’t believe in the christian god. Or in any god for that matter. Or really organized religion in any sense. I believe they (as in all religions) have caused more harm than good in the world over the course of history. I never had a crisis of faith – probably because looking back I never had faith. I approached the bible stories the same way I approached other mythology – as stories and fables that were meant to teach, not to be taken literally or to imply/state that there is an omnipotent sentient being who created all this. I have never been embarassed or quiet about where I stand on the spectrum – I am an atheist. I am not an agnostic, I am not a lapsed-catholic. I do not believe in the Christian, Jewish, or Muslim god (by the way – they’re all the same god if you haven’t noticed – it’s the prophets that change). I do not believe in any deities. I DO believe that you do not need religion to be a good person. If fact, some of the nicest, most giving and empathetic people I know are atheists.

I do, however, celebrate xmas. Though you’d be hard pressed to see me write it as christmas anywhere. I’ll be honest, I actually LOVE this time of year. The movies, the carols, the decorations etc. I’m a total sucker for it all. I spend a week baking xmas cookies and finding the right presents for the people I care about. BUT I do not celebrate the holiday as the birth of any deity or even the pagan festivals it is based on. I celebrate it as a time of the year when one connects and shares with those who mean the most to them: be that family or friends or both.  I love this time of year because it brings people together. Ultimately a good life is about good people and good memories.

I think we need a man as outspoken as Richard Dawkins, because he’s right – atheists are A LOT more numerous than we think and it’s high-time we spoke up.

If you’re interested in the pagan origin’s of christmas, the wikipedia page isn’t too bad with more links to the various winter festivals it borrows heavily from. Or you can always google “christmas’ pagan orgins”.

Here are some of my curent favourite links about atheism. Check them out if you’re interested.

Christmas Message from Bill Maher

Holiday Message from Ricky Gervais: Why I’m an Atheist

Cyanide & Happiness (Comic Strip)

NYTimes: Atheists Outdo Believers in Survey on Religion

Stephen Hawking: God was not Needed to Create Universe

This is all I’ll say of religion on this blog. I’m not interested in having an argument on this blog about your stance because the reality is you can’t convince me and I probably can’t convince you. If you post something racist/homophobic/or down-right cruel in response to this I will delete it.