How presumptuous is it for anyone to declare ‘reality’ in the context of weight loss and eating disorders (ED)?
Well, let me answer by sharing my philosophy first, my reasoning second, and reality third.
Philosophically, it seems to me that the basic laws of physics are currently immutable. That is, the old saw – calories in, calories out – holds fast even in the face of the variations of sources of those calories. Many studies have shown that not all sugars act the same in our bodies, esp in our brains. simple sugars, esp if eaten in large amounts, numb the hormone mechanisms that would otherwise shut down eating more allowing if not encouraging us to eat more than we really need. furthermore, as people gain weight, esp as they approach obesity levels, these mechanisms are rusted out even further making dieting – eating less food – even more frustrating and often times self-defeating. So, philosophically, to me, dieting is a poor solution for managing wt after gaining it despite it being the only solution that offers any real weight loss. It’s simply preferred that, after picking the right gene pool, you start life out eating right and in the right proportions based upon your body’s needs. Hence, physics.
Reasoning, after the fact, that is, once you’re a teenager and your parents’ guidance – good, bad or otherwise – is not the primary influence on your wt, tho still on your body image – suggests that we free, conscious humans have the capacity to control our weight within bounds. Those bounds include family/genetics, culture, food availability/unavailability, and perhaps psychology. The latter is the only one we may not effectively affect until such time as a person chooses to confront the base premise – that we are free, conscious beings.
So, assuming that we are, allow me to go further. Several studies of late have borne new information as to the challenges of weight management, esp loss. One, at the end of January in the New England Journal of Medicine, highlighted the several myths, presumptions and facts of obesity. Compiling years of data from many studies, we now know quite a bit and while there’s still more to learn, we also know a lot about what we don’t know.
That said, the myths by which most experts and their clients have operated are devastating to our sense of control. Humans like to think they are in, or at least able to, control their personal environments, including our bodies. This article says, essentially, HAH! It also says we have a long way to go to control let alone reduce obesity at the individual let alone the societal level. It’s hard work best managed by not getting there in the first place. It also says, what many studies and symposia at conferences say – that exercise is insufficient to lose weight but is essential to keep it off and for health.
The final bit of reasoning here is that exercise, which is my profession, is capable of reducing the risks involved in excess weight even without significant weight loss, so it’s still worth doing.
Finally reality. I say reality because there are some things we can do, some we can’t, and some we need to come to peaceful terms about. A recent study showed that teens who try to lose weight are more at risk for ED than others, esp those who have weight issues, not just body image issues. That’s a damn shame. I know the challenges as a parent in helping a kid, esp a daughter, deal with excess weight from a societal standpoint. It’s rough out there if you don’t conform to the images of beauty, or the thinness of a parent or close friend. It’s rough helping this person thru the many stages of acceptance that allows them to continue living happily and successfully without shame while striving to live healthfully even if it does not get them to where they want to be.
There are no guarantees; no matter how well you eat, how little you eat or how much you exercise, there’s a good chance your body won’t meet the standards of the day. While those standards are devastatingly abusive, they are what they are.
So, my message professionally and personally and parentally is the same, based on all I’ve said above: live healthfully by eating what your body needs, including being active or exercising enough to warrant, and even allow, eating all those so-called ‘bad’ foods, foods that dieting restricts but that healthy living allows in moderation. The alternative is some form of neurosis, and there’s no health in that.