Three Myths About “Dieting” and Weight
Last week, the Huffington Post published the article Everything You Know About “Obesity” is Wrong. It’s a great read and directly supports our treatment philosophy at Eating Recovery Center: “for decades, the medical community has ignored mountains of evidence to wage a cruel and futile war on fat people, poisoning public perception and ruining millions of lives.”
We are passionate about this topic and wholeheartedly encourage that we all do our part to ensure this be a conversation in the national media, and more importantly between patients and providers. The science on “obesity” has changed dramatically and it’s incumbent that we, the medical and clinical community, catch up.
To that end, Dr. Julie Friedman, National Senior Director of ERC’s Binge Eating Treatment & Recovery (BETR) Program, and her BETR clinical team are sharing this article with our BETR patients. As part of those conversations, they are also highlighting three fallacies that many patients hear from well-meaning providers. We invite you to use these insights in your own patient conversations.
MYTH: Calories in/Calories out equals weight loss.
TRUTH: Burn more calories than you take in and you lose weight; take in more calories than you burn and you gain weight. One's body weight is calibrated in a much more complex fashion with genetic factors, biological factors like resting energy expenditure, sleep quality and quantity, stress level and stress management, medical conditions and medications, and your body's attempts to "maintain" your highest weight ever attained and maintained being MUCH more potent determinants of body weight than calories consumed. Our attention to caloric content and promotion of calorie restriction has only helped people to become more disheartened, disappointed, and demoralized vs. enabling them to weigh less.
MYTH: "Working harder" will get you "better results."
TRUTH: If shame and the installation of "discipline" worked to manipulate weight, none of our patients would have ever attempted to diet. Patient "effort" is not directly correlated with their weight change and the reality is that maintaining a stable body weight is simply easier for some people PHYSIOLOGICALLY than others and is not a reflection of their efforts.
MYTH: Anyone can lose weight and maintain weight loss if they work hard enough.
TRUTH: “Obesity” is a complex, multifactorial state that is largely "treatment resistant" and is a reflection of not only high body weight but also medical comorbidities associated with that weight. Many, many factors work to maintain our body weight including the fact that our bodies interpret weight loss as a "stressor" and quickly adapt by slowing our resting energy expenditure to conserve energy and increasing appetite and hunger hormones to promote additional energy storage. Attempting to "cure" one's weight with a popular diet is akin to taking extra vitamins to cure mid- late stage cancer and yet we use patient-blaming rhetoric when one has not "cured" their "obesity” through dieting alone. Yes, we have all seen the People magazine covers in which people lose a significant amount of weight and maintain that weight loss. What we don't see is that these people make up a very small percentage of people seeking weight loss. Even bariatric surgery patients regain some degree of weight lost over time. Our bodies were designed to "hold on" to weight and most people who are able to maintain significant weight lost over time fight their biology on a daily basis.