It Isn’t Impossible

January 6, 2012 in Fitness, General, Health, Weight Management by Mary Ireland

The first time that I read the "Fat Trap," an article in the New York Times, a picture of two scoops of chocolate ice cream drizzled with caramel appeared to the side on each of the eight pages of the article. It really made me angry. I thought how sad it was that potentially some overweight person would come to the site looking for insight into their problem only to be tempted to eat junk after looking at the picture page after page. Actually, I thought it was more than sad, unethical would be a good start for the stronger words I find most appropriate for the situation.

In the "Fat Trap," Tara Parker-Pope talks about research indicating the difficulty of losing weight -- the same study that I referred to in my post Yet Another Reason to Control Your Weight. To support the findings of the research, Ms. Pope-Parker lists the exercise and eating habits of people on the National Weight Control Registry - people who have sustained at least a 30-pound weight loss for over a year. She quotes Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University in regard to the National Weight Control registry, “All it means is that there are rare individuals who do manage to keep it off." “You find these people are incredibly vigilant about maintaining their weight. Years later they are paying attention to every calorie, spending an hour a day on exercise. They never don’t think about their weight.”

The exercise and eating habits of people on the National Weight Control Registry are:

  • Exercise about an hour or more each day — the average weight-loser puts in the equivalent of a four-mile daily walk, seven days a week.
  • Get on a scale every day in order to keep their weight within a narrow range.
  • Eat breakfast regularly.
  • Most watch less than half as much television as the overall population.
  • Eat the same foods and in the same patterns consistently each day and don’t “cheat” on weekends or holidays.
  • Appear to eat less than most people, with estimates ranging from 50 to 300 fewer daily calories.

I would like to put a different spin than Ms. Brownell on the information - a recipe for attaining and maintaining a healthy weight is the six steps listed above. Is it easy? No. However, I don't consider it to be overwhelming or impossible either. (But I have to admit that people sometime think that I'm a "health nut" without sympathy for those who aren't.)

People don't criticize alcoholics who, in their attempts to reform, become regimented in their lifestyle, going through detox, adhering to a 12-step program, attending meetings, having a sponsor, and making new friends who don't drink -- that is what it often takes to control alcohol addiction - one day at a time. In fact people would criticize an alcoholic trying to reform and complaining about how hard it is to stop drinking if that person kept hanging out with drinkers, going to bars, trying to have "just one drink." The person trying to reform would be criticized for not taking steps to distance themselves from friends and situations which would easily contribute to a relapse. They would be criticized for not doing whatever it takes to remain sober.

My point is that there is plenty of research about the addictive nature of some foods (See Food and Addiction.) Apparently for some - many even most - people turning the corner on overeating requires the same resolve. As you have read in our blogs, overeating is a life-threatening disease. Most of the time, it takes a whole new mindset to overcome it; it takes an attitude of looking at pictures of caramel drizzled chocolate ice cream next to an article about losing weight, and thinking, "Those dirty marketers, trying to peddle their poison to me."

Don't get caught by someone's perception of the difficulty of it. Don't be a victim of marketers trying to capitalize on your vulnerabilities. There are inspirational website such as the ones Dr. Grandma referred to in Focusing or Resolving in the New Year in addition to Dr. Grandma's great tips. There are plenty of support groups that can help. There are many websites with excellent healthy, nutritional recipes such as Dr. Grandma's recipes. The National Weight Control Registry shows that it is possible, but only through change. If you find you still need help, an excellent book is The Impossible Just Takes a Little Longer: Living with Purpose and Passion by Art Berg. Start today, ease your habits down the stairs and get started on the pathway to a healthier, happier you.