It’s Your Fault You’re Fat – Or Is It?

It’s always amazed me how many healthcare providers feel the need to constantly badger their patients to lose weight again and again, as though it’s a simple matter of choosing to lose it and losing it.  Really??

Despite the fact that upwards of 95% of people who lose weight on a weight loss diet gain the weight back and often then some within 2-5 years.  Despite the fact that over half of America is on a diet at any given time. Despite the fact that weight cycling, or yo-yo dieting is known to cause more adverse health effects than if you’ve never tried to lose weight.  Despite the fact that most overweight people are desperate to lose weight due to the oppressing stigma in our culture.

“Just eat less and move more,” they keep saying.  “What’s wrong with you?  Just do what I do and you’ll be thin.”  

Let’s look at all the factors that go into someone’s body weight and drive to eat before we come to the conclusion that people just need “more willpower.”  

First let’s take a look at food choices.  The food industry spends $50 million a year advertising candy bars, $100 million a year on advertising soft drinks, while just $2 million a year are allotted to marketing fruits and veggies.  Food scientists spend entire careers engineering the exact flavors to entice our tastebuds and brains to become hooked on these foods, so that even their smell draws us in. At the same time, these foods bypass our body’s natural satiety signals, meaning we don’t feel full on a lot of calories and keep eating more.  

The food industry spends $50 million a year advertising candy bars, $100 million a year on advertising soft drinks, while just $2 million a year are allotted to marketing fruits and veggies. ~Meghan Leah, MS, RD Click To Tweet

Then there’s the absurd amount of money given to health professionals and organizations to downplay or even promote their products as healthy.  Heart Healthy labels can be found on any company willing to pay and meet very loose criteria. Sugar-laden Frosted Flakes of one brand made the payment and got the label, while the same product by a different producer didn’t – they didn’t fork over millions.  While the actual heart healthy fruits and veggies have no one to care to promote them and get left alone.

Finally, thanks to government subsidies, processed food is much cheaper per calorie than whole foods.  Notice I said per calorie, not per ounce.  Whole potatoes are actually much cheaper per ounce than potato chips – a few dollars for a bag of whole potatoes that may weigh 3-5 pounds, or the same money for a bag of potato chips that weighs fractions of a pound.  The better deal nutritionally is definitely the bag of potatoes. But if you want to feed a family on a tight budget, the dollar menu for bunches of calories will beat out a home-cooked meal for maybe 4-5 times as much money.  

Then the food corporations have the balls to create the Center for Consumer Freedom “to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices.”  Basically, a euphemistic way to blame the consumer for their poor choices and protect the corporations that make the food. While we do each need to take responsibility, the deck is stacked way against those with genetics that are particularly primed to absorb more calories from food, and those who are on a tight budget.   

But the message is loud and clear in our society – if you’re overweight, it’s YOUR fault.  Given that over half of America is on or has recently been on a diet to try and lose weight, and most are repeated attempts, it would seem as though people are trying desperately to lose this weight.  Yet still, the word lazy is strongly associated with those who aren’t thin.  

In a culture that worships thinness and morally stigmatizes being overweight, of course people try to lose weight.  And if a person breaks their diet, that’s their fault as well.  Never mind that the human body has evolved a tightly controlled system to prevent against weight loss and hold onto extra weight – especially in the face of famine (aka dieting).  

Studies show that people who diet repeatedly weigh more than those who never diet at all – regardless of starting weight.  That means it’s likely that the dieting caused weight gain.  And that makes sense biologically. We all have a weight “setpoint” range.  Our bodies try very hard to keep us in that range. It’s relatively easy for us to change our weight up or down within that range, but once you start to over or under-consume calories beyond that comfort level, your body makes some changes. 

If you eat way more than usual and you’re at the upper end of your setpoint, your body will speed up metabolism (you may feel hot), increase your energy to increase movement, and lower your appetite.  If you eat way less than usual and you’re at the lower end of your setpoint, your body will slow down metabolism (you may feel cold), decrease energy to stop you from doing too much activity, and increase your appetite.  It’s like a finely-tuned thermostat monitoring body fat levels.

The latter is just what happens when you diet.  Your biology is primed to keep you from reducing weight and will drive up your appetite.  That’s why many diets end in binges or over-eating, and weight regained.

Now, the frustrating part for dieters is that your body was designed to protect against famine, the conditions common in most of evolution.  So after repeated dieting attempts the body can actually raise your setpoint to prevent starvation in the future.  In other words, it gets harder to lose weight the more often you attempt to lose it through restricting food.

And that’s another absurd reason for doctors or even nutritionists to keep recommending to people to “eat less, move more” as a way to control weight.  We know it does the complete opposite!! The body was not designed to lose weight through food restriction. It’s smarter than that.

YOU haven’t failed diets.  DIETS have failed YOU.

YOU haven’t failed diets. DIETS have failed YOU. ~Meghan Leah, MS, RD Click To Tweet

This doesn’t mean you’re doomed to be stuck in a body you hate forever.  But the way we’ve been going about it is all wrong. We were all born with the ability to know just what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat.  Up until about age 2 or 3 we’re all intuitive eaters. We know just what the body needs and we make sure we get it.

But usually about age 3 we start picking up on external cues around eating, whether its from well-meaning parents or caregivers, and later on from peers and advertisements, we lose touch with that inner wisdom that knows just how to feed us.  

Intuitive Eating is a way to reconnect to that inner wisdom that knows more than anyone else what nourishes you.  Developed by two Registered Dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, the 10 principles of intuitive eating guide you back to yourself and being at home in your body.

If you want personal guidance in finding your own intuitive eater and are ready to give up dieting for good, schedule a complimentary consult with me today. 

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