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Philip Welford

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Is diet and exercise a huge oversimplification of obesity? Do we need an unprejudiced reconsideration?

My partner of 35 years passed away in 2010 aged 53. When we met, she weighed around (126 lbs/56kgs). Following childbirth (two pregnancies) her weight doubled. She ate healthily; typically fruit, cereal and salad. This makes me consider obesity. Many people without a weight problem attribute virtually all obesity to blame, failure, but is it as blatantly simple as diet and exercise? If my partner hadn't had her problems I’d probably believe it.

If a diet worked we'd all be on it and there'd be no obesity. Dieting is self-imposed famine and we, as with many other animals, are equipped to cope with famine. We eventually recover what we lost.

People without a weight problem think they're in control but how do they know they've taken in enough to keep them going until their next food? We need reserves to obtain our next food, even to chew it.

Do we keep every bit of nutrition in what we eat, does some of it pass right through? Intake travels at a rate through the system. Does a quick rate mean less is absorbed than with a slow rate?

Do we store more fat for winter but with the comfort of central heating we don't use it? Has the rise in home heating paralleled the rise in obesity rates?

Is "junk food" an abstract imagination of something fat people eat in large quantities? People focus on fat people eating in public who fit the prejudice but don’t notice others eating as much, or more, who aren't fat.

Is it right to determine all fat people failures? Are there no fat scientists, doctors, or professors? Are they clever in every department except food intake?

Pregnancy hormones reorganise how the metabolism handles food to some extent, providing for the foetus. Are there female dieticians for whom weight has become significantly difficult to control following pregnancy?

Why are there families where just one child is fat and has been since infancy, but the others aren't even though they're all been raised with the same care?

Do other animals exercise on a recreational basis?

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  • Apr 9 2013: These are all extremely good questions. As far as calling all "fat people" failures I don't think that would be right. Obesity can stem from many things; hormones, genetics, stress, etc. It does not typically come from just one simple thing, like having a poor diet and not exercising (although these do play a role). It is entirely possible for people to change these things though, and therefore change their hormone levels, their gene expression, among many other things. Eating healthy is just the beginning, and quite a few people who "eat healthy" don't realize that they don't have a good grasp on what is healthy. Nutrition is a very complex and tricky subject. But eating healthy is not enough to overcome obesity. To lose weight there must be a caloric deficit and the best way to achieve this is by eating less and exercising (and when eating less, eating better as well..whole foods, nothing processed). Also many people think that cardio is the best way to lose weight so they ignore weight training, when, in fact, weight training can be one of the best things for your weight loss journey. Anyways..obesity is very complicated and there are many things that can lead to it, but there are also ways out of it.
    • Apr 9 2013: Thanks for your reply Alyssa. Please forgive me if I seem cynical, it's borne from years of experience and isn't in any way personal. I appreciate all comments, they stir my thoughts. : o) They actually illustrate the advice fat people receive, very well.
      Many obese people are aware of the value of nutrition and exercise, but it doesn't work for them as it does for Mr and Mrs Average.
      I have a friend who is a Uni professor, a well respected, no nonsense woman (she has a little red dragon on the dash of her car. A present from one of her offspring), still teaching in her 70s. She's had a problem with her weight since the birth of her 4th child nearly 40 years ago and even she has returned from her nutritionist frustrated and close to tears at the condescension. When people are sensible in their regime, some even more sensible than those without a problem, and it's failing, then they are often tacitly dismissed as self deluding liars.
      When we're ill we often don't want to eat but we are also lethargic with little or no energy and take to our beds. The short term diet is appreciated but the lethargy isn't. I suspect the two are both deliberately controlled by the metabolism and a similar thing happens with dieting, lowering our intake reduces the propensity to expend energy, not just physical movement but internal energy usage too.. A similar thing might be when people are lost in such places as the desert for days without supplies, they move in a slow measured, perhaps natural, innate conservatory way to make maximum use of stored energy supplies.
      As far as I'm aware no one has achieved permanent weight loss without continued low calorific intake or surgical intervention. There is much to be learned.
      • Apr 10 2013: When talking about nutrition, a diet may do some good in the beginning; but if the person goes off the diet and resumes their original ways then the diet was useless. It is the lifestyle change, the permanent change that will induce the results. Are you talking about illness in other regards, like thyroid issues, etc?
        • Apr 10 2013: My experiences are that if you don't fit the average biological pattern, then, whether nicely or nastily put (my wife had both), you are a failure and, or, a liar. 35 years is a long time to study a person and I hope I've demonstrated with this conversation and my replies so far that I have some logic and awareness.
          She had the full battery of blood and endocrine tests and nothing was found to be wrong. Ergo she was at fault. She was put on three regimes over the years. A food replacement diet, a fat busting drug then an anti addiction drug (now withdrawn in the Europe). In other words, "We don't believe you."

          I suspect that if we go on a long term weight loss regime the body goes into a scavenging mode because it thinks it's in famine. Unless you continue in a low intake mode you will recover losses but for some that mode is so low it's an intolerable lifestyle.
          If you lose a limb or a sense, such as sight, you have no choice but to adapt. With weight you have to fake your own disability and for most it becomes an impossible task.
          I can understand anyone within the average body range looking for, at worst a blame factor, at best a contributory factor, but my observations and considerations have led me beyond that, hence my wondering if there are any qualified dieticians, especially female, who've found considerable difficulty with their body mass that they didn't always have.
          :o)

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