It’s almost bathing suit season here in the panhandle. We have seen several patients lately for medical weight loss, and I feel compelled to write some truth about obesity and weight loss. Obesity is not only a cosmetic concern. Obesity often leads to negative emotions regarding our bodies and can ultimately even lead to depression. Other risk factors for obesity include reduced quality of life, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. The general trend in healthcare is to approach the treatment of obesity with changes in diet and the addition of exercise. I believe that is very helpful, but this approach alone is clearly not working for us.
What if I told you that weight loss is part of a spiritual journey? How did we become obese in the first place? Did something happen in our lives which caused us to turn to emotional eating? If so, have we dealt with that issue? Because as long as that issue is there, so is our obesity. Are we working in an environment which does not really allow us the time necessary to prepare and eat a healthy meal? Do we feel supported by our administrators to take adequate time to eat a meal? Are we trying to cram in more work while we are eating? Do you know that eating while distracted (working, watching television) usually results in the consumption of 10% more calories than eating while not distracted? Are we working long hours and only eating once per day? Are we waiting until we are starving to find something to eat, and therefore making poor food choices? Are we living in a household with other people who are not necessarily supportive of our weight loss journeys? If so, why are we surrounding ourselves with people who are not supportive of our decisions? Is this something that needs to finally be addressed?
What if food intake has less to do with weight loss than we think? In the 1950s, there was a study performed on a group of Italian immigrants in Roseto, Pennsylvania which concluded that this population of people, despite eating pasta, Italian sausage, cakes, and cookies, had a 50% lower incidence of death by heart attacks than the rest of the population at the time. This study has been continued, and after 30 years, the incidence of mortality of death by heart attacks by this group of people has risen to equal the incidence of the rest of the population. Do you know what changed? In the 50s, the people got together with friends and family and ate together and celebrated events together. They were a tight-knit community who supported each other. As time went on, families moved away from the area, other families moved in, and the cohesiveness of that group of people fell apart. This is the only thing that changed in this group. Healthy, supportive relationships with others keep us healthy! Why do we feel compelled to go to the gym with our friends? Why do we tell our friends that we are dieting? Because we intuitively need that support! And when we have it, we feel better!
Stress is the antithesis of weight loss! You may be exercising several times per day and eating as healthy as ever but not losing weight. Why is this? Because it is the American way to have that sympathetic nervous system in overdrive nearly 24/7! We have equated “busyness” with “success”, and this is a mistake! Truly successful, healthy people will tell you that they do not run themselves ragged day in and day out. Truly healthy, happy people will tell you that they have realized the importance of the parasympathetic nervous system, and they have learned how to turn it on to counter stress and high cortisol levels. Cortisol is known to block normal, healthy hormone pathways and can lead to adrenal fatigue, effective weight loss, and healthy thyroid function. The sympathetic nervous system is incredibly beneficial when we are being chased by a lion, but we were never meant to live every day in that state! What if I told you that you could meditate yourself skinny? Or yoga or deep breathe yourself out of adrenal fatigue. You absolutely can! Or how about loving yourself healthy!?
What if I told you that body shaming has a negative effect on weight loss? If you want someone to do something, what is the best way to approach it? Do you say, “I hate you. Can you take out the trash?” Do you think that will prompt someone to take out the trash for you? Isn’t it better to say, “I love you! Can you take out the trash?” Why do we think it works any differently with our bodies!? We look in the mirror and say, “You’re so fat. You can’t even run. You can’t even move well. You look terrible. I hate you”, yet we expect our bodies to change into what we want them to be. Imagine the resistance we are creating! When we spend years telling our bodies that we hate them, we create a very negative, unhealthy relationship with our bodies that only just worsens our weight problems. I think that sometimes we are afraid to love our bodies the way they are because we are afraid that may mean allowing them to stay that way. But the truth is that loving our bodies is beneficial for allowing them to change. I give my patients mantras such as: “I love my body. I am proud of the way my body moves,” to create positive thoughts and positive energy about their bodies so that their bodies are more likely to change into what they want them to be!
Rest assured, my loves. There are other options that we may not have explored which will get us bathing-suit ready this summer! And in the process, an even more magical thing may happen. We may just fall in love with ourselves!