Should You Stop Trying to Lose Weight?
Recently, primary care physician Dr. Elisabeth Poorman released an article explaining why she doesn't recommend her patients try to lose weight. On the surface, this is a shocking approach, especially for a physician. We all know the dangers associated with morbid obesity.
Right now your mind is filling with questions. Why would a physician say this to her patients? Is she reckless, clueless, or a fool? Has Dr. Poorman lost her mind? All valid questions, especially considering just how intense the modern obesity epidemic has become.
Related: How to Lose Belly Fat
So what's really going on here?
Believe it or not, Dr. Poorman is not insane. In fact, her article presents a very interesting viewpoint on weight loss, and why advising men and women to lose weight might even be harming them.
Let's dive right in and look at the meat from this piece:
"I have worried that telling patients to lose weight is harming them. These conversations fail to acknowledge how rare weight-loss success is: Fewer than 1 in 100 obese people will achieve a normal weight. We also continue to equate normal weight with good health in spite of mounting evidence that this is not true. In fact, in some studies, patients who are classified as overweight live longer than those who are a normal weight."
I am going to take a detailed look at the points made in her article, Why I've Stopped Telling My Patients To Lose Weight and express my opinion. I also want to conclude with a story about my own weight loss journey, and why I think a focus on longevity and a new lifestyle is a better way forward.
Here are the major points made by Dr. Poorman.
- Some patients will take extreme measure to lose weight, including the use of weight loss drugs (and diets) that are potentially dangerous.
- Weight loss success is rare. Less than 1 in 100 individuals manage to lose weight and keep it off.
- "Normal" weight does not always mean you are in good health.
- Some scientific research shows that individuals that are slightly overweight actually live longer.
- There is no evidence that weight loss counseling actually helps anyone lose weight.
- Telling someone to lose weight without providing them with the resources to do so is foolhardy.
- Sustained weight loss comes from a long-term approach, rather than a short-term fix.
- Promoting drugs as a weight loss solution may be doing a disservice to the patient.
- "Eat less, move more" is overly simplistic and unproductive.
- What we are currently doing isn't working.
10 Points From Dr. Poorman's Article
Point 1 - Weight Loss Can Be Dangerous
Yes, it can be. There are plenty of unsettling fad diet approaches and aggressive weight loss drugs and supplements out there. These approaches can be extreme and unhealthy, especially in concert with one another.
Imagine combining an extremely low-calorie fad diet, or near-starvation diet, with an aggressive weight-loss drug that contains amphetamines? This is not a recipe for good health, nor does it provide a sustainable, long-term solution. The goal is simply short-term weight loss at any cost, even if it's your health.
My Thoughts - I've been involved with fitness for 35 years. Most people I know that seek to lose weight don't try to change their lifestyle and habits and find a sustainable approach. They immediately jump to extremes, either with diet (eating too little), exercise (trying to exercise too much), or both.
Point 2 - Weight Loss Success is Rare
Indeed. The reason is simple: We attack weight loss with short-term solutions rather than trying to change our habits and lifestyles.
Also, most people simply don't know how to change their lifestyle if they wanted to. In a sea of confusing diet, weight loss drugs, exercise, and supplement noise, It is extremely difficult to know what is essential and vital, and what is extreme.
People do the best they can with the information they have. Because most of this information lacks a proper framework, we fail to lose weight.
My Thoughts - Even though success is rare, it's worth it. Don't be dissuaded by the failure rate. Most people don't lose weight because they try extremes and don't adopt a new lifestyle. You can increase your chances of success by thinking long term, and using healthy solutions.
Point #3 - Health and Weight Go Hand in HandThis simply isn't true. It misses the point.
You can maintain weight while making poor food choices. I know that I can sustain my current scale weight by eating no more than an average of 3,000 calories per day. If these calories come from fast food, Doritos, ice cream, and other nonsense my body is receiving energy but not micronutrients that are so vital for long-term health.
In addition, conditions and lifestyle choices such as excessive inactivity, poor sleep, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, etc. aren't optimal for good health. You can maintain a reasonable weight while indulging in any of these inherently unhealthy choices.
My Thoughts - A no-brainer here. Our focus should always be on healthy habits with an eye towards longevity. Using this focus, weight will normalize over time and your health will improve.
Point 4 - Thin Might Not Equate to a Longer LifeThis is a shocking point, but it appears to be true. Weight and longevity of 100,000 individuals were studied in Denmark. The research found that those with an "overweight" BMI were able to live longer than folks with a normal, obese or skinny BMI.
What this hints at is the obvious. Appearance doesn't equal longevity. The body seems to prefer, or function better, with a few extra pounds of weight. The standards we have created for optimal health may be off. More research is needed to find out why, and evolve our understanding of the human body.
My Thoughts - Fuel is life. Give the body too little fuel and it can't properly repair, recover, and function. Give the body a quality amount of fuel, and it will perform better. The point here being that we may be encouraging healthy folks to undereat and actually shortening their life and reducing their ability to function properly.
Point 5 - Counseling Doesn't Help With Weight LossI find this to be an interesting point, although a somewhat misleading one. I counsel people all the time on weight loss. I've seen my fair share of amazing transformations just in the last 5 years alone.
With that said, I'm not certain that the average counseling provided by a physician is on par with the help you would receive from a body transformation coach who helps people turn their lives and bodies around for a living. So, for the most part I would agree with this point.
My Thoughts - There are experts in every field. A general physician knows the perils associated with morbid obesity, and in general what it takes to turn things around, but is usually not an expert in the field of weight loss and body transformation motivation and psychology.
Point 6 - Telling, But Equipping Doesn't WorkTruth. Telling someone "You need to lose weight" doesn't work. We all know when we've reached that "I'm too heavy" stage. It's no different than telling a cigarette smoker to quit. They know smoking is dangerous, and they are tired of spending money on cigarettes. They just don't know how to quit.
People don't need to be informed of the obvious. They need to be educated. If you equip someone with tools that can help them, you dramatically increase their chances of success.
My Thoughts - When I was obese, doctors and nurses often told me to lose weight. Thanks, Captain Obvious! They never bothered to understand the root causes of my binge eating. Stress. Depression. Just as weight loss is a long term process, so is the ongoing treatment provided by professionals. A one-off statement does little to change a life.
Point 7 - Short Term Fixes Don't WorkA short term fix doesn't typically help someone create a long term, sustainable lifestyle. These little fixes might work for days, weeks, or months, but rarely do they forge lasting results.
When someone strays from a fad diet or temporary fix, they slide right back into their old habits. Undereating is replaced by overeating, and choosing the wrong foods. Excessive exercise is replaced by extreme inactivity.
My Thoughts - When you break from a long term fix, it's easier to slide back into it after a bad day, weekend, or week. Your motivation will be higher to continue if you are not forcing yourself to adhere to practices that don't work with your existing lifestyle and/or eating habits.
Point 8 - Weight Loss Drugs May Be a DisserviceAnd... We are right back to the point that short term fixes do not equip someone for long term success. Sure, there can be value in a weight loss drug. If you are severely unhealthy, and you're life is at risk, then a drug might provide that little extra boost needed to buy you time.
Use of a weight loss drug must be accompanied by lifestyle coaching, in some form or fashion. If not the individual is going to lose weight but eventually return to old eating and exercise habits.
My Thoughts - A well-rounded approach is essential. I am not against assistance from weight loss drugs if use is accompanied by a proper long term plan, backed by some form of semi-frequent counseling or coaching, and required because the patient is extremely obese.
Point 9 - "Eat Less, Do More" is Simplistic"Eat less, do more" is the equivalent of telling someone to climb a tall, moss-infested mountain in the middle of a rainstorm. It's a treacherous way to approach advice, and does absolutely nothing to help an individual prepare for challenges and success.
We all know that a calorie deficit is required for weight loss. But how do you make this sustainable and healthy? We all know that exercise assists with the weight loss process, and is great for overall health. But how do you make this sustainable and healthy?
My Thoughts - Show, don't tell. Show someone how to eat properly without it resulting in undue hunger. Show someone how to exercise so they stave off injury and don't feel pressure to perform two hours of cardio each day.
Point 10 - What We Are Doing Isn't WorkingWe have studied the subject of weight loss to death. We have weight loss drugs. Weight loss foods. Weight loss drinks. Weight loss classes. Weight loss books. Weight loss YouTube channels. Weight loss supplements. Most of this isn't working.
The biggest success rate I find is within the fitness community. Why? There are a lot of good people who know how to create sustainable lifestyles, and who also know how to fuel motivation without forcing someone to get excessive.
My Thoughts - We have far too many gimmicks, magic diets, and miracle supplements out there. They distract us from the truth that really matters: Our current lifestyle got us fat.
Trying to Lose Weight? Think Longevity Not Weight LossFor over 17 years I tried to lose weight. My weight jumped up and up. I hit 240. Then 274. Eventually 308, and finally 346. I was very, very sick.
I can't tell you how many times I tried to lose weight during these years. A big mistake I made was avoiding a complete lifestyle change. Instead, I would cut calories but continue to eat frozen pizzas, junk food, and other choices that weren't rich in micronutrients.
Another even bigger mistake was focusing on weight loss instead of longevity. Let's be honest here for a moment. Longevity is the real issue we need to be concerned about.
In 2013 I started my weight loss journey. Overall I lost 104 pounds. What made the difference this time, compared to all my past failed attempts? I nearly died. This time I was worried about making it until tomorrow instead of simply trying to lose another pound.
My fatty liver disease was bad. So bad that I couldn't stop cramping, Every muscle from head to toe was one brutal, unrelenting charlie horse. Why? My liver wasn't processing minerals properly.
Realizing that the heart is a muscle, a single thought filled every corner of my mind. The heart is a muscle. It's going to cramp soon. That's called a heart attack. You're going to die unless you make changes.
And so I did.
As soon as I focused on surviving the day instead of surviving a diet, the weight came off. My lifestyle completely changed, and because of this, so did my eating habits and the weight on the scale.
So my advice to you is to do the same. Spend some time soul-searching. Realize that your lifestyle is killing you slowly. Don't believe me? Still not resonating? How many morbidly obese people do you see still walking the planet after the age of 60?
Morbid obesity doesn't just destroy your life. It also kills your quality of life. Your sex life isn't the same. Your endurance isn't the same. Your sleep isn't the same. You wake up every morning feeling like a mound of garbage. You feel tired during the day, and despite this, probably struggle to sleep well at night.
I could go on and on, but you get the picture.
So here are some tips. I hope they at least function as a starting point. they are short, sweet, and to the point. I encourage you to do more research. Equip yourself with knowledge, and develop a new lifestyle that is 100% focused on making this life count - and on improving your quality of life.
Tip #1 - Focus on food quality. Make sure that 90% of your calorie intake comes from meat, fruits, veggies, healthy fats and quality carb sources such as rice and oatmeal. Limit your junk food severely.
Quality food choices are rich in micronutrients, which are vitamins, minerals, and other chemicals and substances required by the body to function properly. Eating is more than calories. If your body is intaking an abundance of micronutrients, you'll be healthier, and have fewer issues with hunger.
Tip #2 - Practice portion control. Never overfill your plate. Eat eat one plateful of food and wash it down with plenty of water. If you are still hungry, wait exactly an hour before eating again. This small practice of discipline helps more than you think. You'll be far less likely to overeat.
Tip #3 - Get some sleep. Good sleep is essential to not only good health, but also appetite control. When you are overtired, the stress your body is feeling often leads you to overeat and make bad food choices. Lack of sleep also impacts your disciple, and you are more likely to eat anything in front of you on a whim.
Force yourself to go to sleep at the same time each night. Yes, you might have to sacrifice TV or computer time, but remember we are forging forward with a new lifestyle. We are practicing habits that are life-giving rather than life-destroying.
Tip #4 - Learn how to cook. This tip saved my life. Literally. Hate veggies or bland "healthy" meals? There are a million recipes and video tutorials floating out there on the Internet. Google search. Learn how to turn bland, healthy meals into amazing dishes. Learn how to turn boring veggies into something you can't resist,
Tip #5 - Eat only until satiety. Feel full? Stop eating. You don't need to finish that plate of food and stuff yourself. Resist the urge.
Tip #6 - Get moving. Find a form of exercise you enjoy. It doesn't matter what it is. Bowling. Hiking. Gardening. Just get out and get moving. Unchain yourself from the gym and endless cardio sessions. These are boring as heck. All you'll be doing is watching the clock.
Tip #7 - Understand exercise burns little fat. 3 hours of cardio (treadmill) per week burns only about 600 calories. At this rate it will take you nearly 6 weeks to burn off one pound of fat. Excessive amounts of cardio are not the way to go, not to mention that they quickly become a burden.
Tip #8 - Use cardio for health. Following up our last tip, cardio should be performed, but only to improve overall health.
Tip #9 - Avoid fad diets. Fad diets usually involve extremes, or practices that will never be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle once the diet is done. Listen to your body and eat when you are hungry. It's better to work with your existing eating habits and tendencies than to try force yourself to do something that doesn't feel natural.
Tip #10 - Stay hydrated. The body needs water. Stay disciplined and make sure you are reaching your water intake goals each. Not sure how much water you need? Click here to calculate your required water intake.
Tip #11 - Ignore mistakes. We all have bad days where we overeat, under-sleep, or drink too much. Ignore bad, or excessive days. They are part of the journey. Everyone has them. A bad day doesn't mean you're doing anything wrong. It just means you're human. Move on and don't beat yourself up.
Tip #12 - Don't smoke. Not much else to say here. Don't smoke.
Tip #13 - More interaction, less mindlessness. Keep your brain active. watch fewer hours of TV each week. Instead of tuning into the tube, read a book, play a puzzle game, or do some other activity that keeps your mind active.
Tip #14 - Work on your mental transformation. Become a better person. This mental evolution will make you happier, and more satisfied with life. Practice kindness, generosity, unselfishness, active listening, and other "human" skills that will make you feel better about yourself.
Tip #15 - Unplug from negativity. Distance yourself from negative people, negative relationships, and negative environments. Surround yourself with positive people making steps to a better life.
Tip #16 - Avoid the white poisons. Try to minimize your intake of the white poisons - white sugar and flour.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it's a good start. Reduce stress, eat better, don't overeat, get more sleep, think more, don't smoke, unplug from negative people, and get more exercise. All of these practices, when applied for years to come, will help to foster a positive environment, and will also lead to a reduction in your weight.
Stay focused on longevity and making good choices each day. You can't go wrong by doing this.