What's all this chatter I hear about how hard it is to lose weight? Relax. Obesity has finally been conquered. Those stubborn extra pounds that you've been stuck with will soon melt faster than a Popsicle on a steamy summer day. Although I am a practicing gastroenterologist who deals with nutritional issues routinely, I did not learn of this breakthrough in my medical journals or from experts in the field. I learned it just by listening to the radio.
I'm in the car several times a day, so I get my share of radio time. Not a day passes that I don't hear an ad for some kind of fat-busting pill or potion. The products are different but the pitch is always the same.
• Rapid weight loss
• No excercise
• No work or effort. Pound magically disappear
This seductive pitch is followed by testimonials from smiling “customers” posing on the beach who corroborate the amazing result. Their script usually includes: ‘I've tried everything and nothing works. When I heard about (insert product name), I was skeptical, but I've dropped 20 pounds and I'm eating more than ever!’
Then, viewers will see the before and after photos. The “before” shot is a grainy black and white photo with bad hair and a scowling expression. You know what the “after” shot looks like.
Then the announcer returns and cautions viewers that this product should only be taken for serious weight loss because it is “extremely potent.” Then, we will hear the incredibly clever tag line, “The only thing you have to lose is weight!”
As the ad concludes, a disclaimer is read at a speed faster than the human ear can process. I can barely pick out the phrase, “Results may vary.” I think we all know what that means.
Losing weight is tough work, as folks who have been battling against their bathroom scales can attest. The weight loss journey should be regarded as a slow marathon jog, not a high speed sprint. If losing weight were easy, then we'd all be thin.
But, it can be done. We all know people who cracked the code against obesity and trimmed down. How did they do it? What are their secrets?
Here are some of the lessons I have learned from them after a quarter century of medical practice.
• Losing weight is a mental and psychological process. Don't try to lose an ounce until you have made a strong mental commitment to the effort.
• Understand why you eat excessively. It's usually not from hunger. Understanding “why” will help you plan an effective strategy. For example, if you reach for food when you are stressed, then exploring stress reduction options will be a key component of your plan.
• Avoid gimmicks. They don't work. There's no quick fix here.
• Set modest weight loss goals and try to achieve them. If you intend to lose 2 lbs. per month, keep to this level. Don't overshoot; stay at a steady pace.
• Make dietary changes that you can live with forever. This is why gimmicks fail and nearly these folks regain the weight after experiencing initial rapid weight loss.
• Have a friend or family member to serve as your coach and cheerleader.
• You're not perfect. Don't hold yourself up to an infallible standard. Backsliding is not failure, it's human.
Physicians can help here, but we can't do the work for you. We can share with you the secrets of successful patients and we will do our best to make you one of them. Talk to your doctor. You have nothing to lose except …
This post by Michael Kirsch, MD, FACP, appeared at MD Whistleblower. Dr. Kirsch is a full time practicing physician and writer who addresses the joys and challenges of medical practice, including controversies in the doctor-patient relationship, medical ethics and measuring medical quality. When he's not writing, he's performing colonoscopies.