It’s not mental, it’s medical. That’s the message behind a new survey detailed recently in an article by The New York Times.
To paraphrase the results of the study as reported in the Times, even though scientific research shows that diet and exercise alone are not sufficient for weight loss, a large majority of survey respondents said that people should be able to to lose weight on their own through willpower!
We know this is not true, and science backs us up.
As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), I’ve always believed that people’s weight and fitness levels have to do not only with their DNA … but also with education, mental health, stress levels, hormone levels, and possibly underlying medical conditions, as well. Presuming that all people with weight issues need to “eat less and exercise more” is a truly outdated way of looking at weight loss and wellness.
Sure, there are some people who aren’t informed enough or simply don’t want to take control of their health but in my experience, they are in the minority. Well over 90% of overweight people have tried to lose weight at one point or another and failed. Some have even been “on a diet” their entire lives.
Education, mental health, stress, hormones, and medical conditions can be addressed, but you can’t change your genetic make up.
However, this doesn’t mean you are doomed to live out some pre-determined genetic life sentence … far from it! We are still learning so much about genetics and how food choices and environment influence gene expression.
We do know that, genetically, some people have to work harder, sometimes a lot harder, than others to maintain a normal weight. Often, people carrying excess weight may have legitimate medical conditions that need to be diagnosed and treated. Working with their physicians or therapists, what works for weight loss can vary significantly from one person to the next, including their nutrition and activity programs.
What provides success for one person is not necessarily the right program for someone else.
According to the Times, respondents said they believe that active dieting and exercise are the most effective ways to shed pounds when, in reality, researchers noted that a self-help approach was ineffective for 94 percent of obese participants, no matter how many times they tried. Does any of this sound familiar? Some of the participants in the study had tried more than 20 times to shed excess weight.
Instead of jumping to derogatory conclusions, we need to show support, compassion, and encouragement.
We need to understand the underlying reasons or causes for weight gain, and create personalized programs (often in tandem with treatment from a physician) that are more effective. At Personalized Nutrition Concierges , we’re here for you.
Kassandra Gyimesi, RDN