Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Weight Cycle

Newsweek recently did a cover story on Oprah, some of the questionable medical advice that some of her guests present, and why this doesn't seem to hurt her ratings or make her look like just another trashy daytime tv talk show host. While I found it interesting to hear what doctors say about Suzanne Somers' bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, this is what really struck me:

"Oprah, of course is notoriously bad at sticking with the advice Oz [non-quack
doc] and Greene [personal trainer] dispense, especially when it comes
to her weight. She laments her inability to keep off the pounds. In January she
embarked on yet another attempt to trim down, which means all of Oprah's views
are now-actually or vicariously-on a diet too. She will lose the weight, and
there will be much remarking upon it. But then, in a year, or two, or three,
experience teaches us that the fat will likely come back. And she will lament.
And then she will do it all over again, with a whole new set of experts armed
with the latest breakthrough theories on how to live our next best life and
all-new, must-have books and gadgets and ointments to ease the way."

(I would link to the rest of the article, but it's not online.)

Obviously, these writers are lucky enough to never have been overweight (or at least never want to lose that weight) and doesn't have anyone close to them who has gone through this. If they did, they might not brush it off so easily. Almost everyone in my family deals with weight issues. The cycle that he speaks of is one that those of us who are overweight know all too well. Most overweight people don't like being overweight, even if we learn to accept our body as it is. We know that the world would see us as more attractive and healthier if we were thinner, which may or may not be true. What the media, and this article, seem to portray as a failure of will-power or a lack of follow-through is much more complicated than that. Those things may or may not play a role, but what also plays a role are your own metabolism and genes, how active you were as a kid in ways that can translate into adulthood, living and working in environments where one can't walk but has to drive, the physicality (or lack thereof) of your job, that processed/fatty/starchy foods are readily and cheaply available, etc, etc, etc.

I'm not saying that people can't and shouldn't eat healthier foods and get more exercise. But most overweight people that I've known in my life will cycle back and forth and back and forth, just like Oprah. We start something all gung-ho, we work hard, we reach our goals for weight loss and a more fit body. But then time and the everyday wears our resolve down. Also with food, it's especially difficult, as people have to eat. It's not like doing drugs, where you can avoid people who do drugs and places where drugs are sold. We have to go to the grocery store. We have to eat meals. When driving to and from work, it's impossible to not drive past a fast food restaurant. All that makes it that much harder to limit or avoid those things that might have caused you issues in the past. And one has to have priorities in their life. Right now I could work very hard to re-lose the weight that I've gained back. But I have too much other shit going on, so I just don't have the energy or time for that.

I guess it just irritated me because I know how so many (most female) people in my life has struggled with their weight, not just always being overweight, but yo-yo-ing up and down. And I don't think they just gain the weight back because they can't follow advice or are failures or even because their weight loss program was a fad diet. I think they gain it back in large part just because of life and our life in this time and place. Plus, even if you think overweight people are all Wal-mart consuming, mindless, uneducated suckers, as we're 50% of the population, I think you might at least give up some respect for us.

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