Is it just me, or is it getting harder to lose weight? In my younger years, dropping a few pounds simply meant drinking more water and running an extra 10 minutes each day for a couple of weeks. Now that I am older, my efforts often bring about disappointing results.
These days it seems many celebrity moms appear to give birth one day and fit comfortably in their size 2 skinny jeans by lunchtime the following afternoon. Yet for the 108 million Americans currently dieting, losing weight is hard. And for those seeking long-term results and drastic lifestyle changes, it is also a very slow process.
Relying on the encouraging support of others is an added bonus to an already challenging experience. But sometimes that so-called support creates a new set of challenges to the process. Amid the most admirable set of intentions, are you providing the right kind of support? So in recognition of a dieter's effort to literally lighten one's load, here are some myths that illustrate the unhelpful nature of the best of intentions.
1. "You did this to yourself."
Yes, that is true. However, we often don't understand why we create these difficult circumstances for ourselves.
"Obesity is caused by complex imbalances within a person's body and his or her environment," explained Dr. Eleazar Kadile, who specializes in treating patients with obesity. "Some imbalances are exacerbated by poor dietary choices based on bad dietary information, personal history, and psychological patterns. Together, they physiological, psychological, social, and environmental causes of the disease of obesity create a predicament that obese people are drawn into and unable to get out."
2. "Just eat right."
Yeah, that's it. Just eat smarter. But for some people who have never fully understood the value of food nor the proper way to prepare healthy meals, the idea of being responsible for changing the way one stocks a refrigerator can be an overwhelming experience.
A recent survey by nextadvisor.com draws attention to the national appeal of packaged diet foods.
"Successful dieting often comes down to the food that you have to eat," wrote Jocelyn Baird in her nextadvisor.com article, You are What You Eat: NextAdvisor.com Survey Reveals Americans' Diet Food Habits. "It's important to not only eat food that you enjoy, but also find food that's convenient to purchase and easy to prepare."
The diet food industry has recognized, and capitalized, on this as many dieters don't fully understand the impact of the kinds of foods they choose or the amounts they consume. Incidentally, Jenny Craig was ranked highest in Best Tasting and offering Best Support per those polled.
3. "Just do it. Just lose the weight."
Is it really as simple as that? OK, problem solved. Yes, the road to fitness begins with one step. But a large part of that journey requires a better understanding why and how we ended up here in the first place. That means taking a good, hard look at our habits, choices, history, physical makeup, among other things.
"Morbidly obese patients need plenty of preparation," said Dr. Kadile. "When a patient comes to me, I go through a rigorous list of questions regarding medical and family history. I ask about eating, sleeping and activity patterns, as well as medical conditions, emotional patterns, stress histories, good times and bad times. I also have them go through an extensive battery of medical tests. That's the effective and safe way of doing it."
It's not too late to re-commit to your goals. Yes, we recognize that we played a part in our own present condition, but we are also determined to understand the meaning behind our choices and make an adjustment.
We need support, not a critical peanut gallery. Sometimes investing in a structured, specialized commercial service can be helpful in learning the fundamentals of healthy eating and lifestyle choices before trying it on our own.
"Just do it." This is where we agree with the critics. We are motivated to do it this time. We are just going to go about it armed with an empowered and informed strategy. Don't look now, but this is shaping up to be a rather happy swimsuit season after all.
Dr. Amy Osmond Cook received her Ph.D. from the University of Utah in Communication. She is Dir. of Provider Relations at North American Health Care and taught writing, communication, and marketing classes at ASU, BYU, and Univ of Utah.