Keeping An Open Mind When It Comes To Weight Management Help On Offer
"Hyper Vigilance, Exhaustion, Fatigued, Tedious, Frustrating, Annoying, Humiliating "
These are some of the words that I have heard expressing how utterly exhausting losing weight and maintaining weight loss can be. Always thinking about what you eat, how much you've eaten, when you will eat, how much exercise you will do, did, might do, the "will I or wont I eat that?" debate that gets tossed around in people minds at every mealtime and every social occasion. Experiencing the frustrations of the plateaus. Aiming for goals that seem so far away, and the worries about how to maintain those goals. The hurt that can be felt daily when managing other peoples judgment even though you know are doing the best you can. These sentiments are not felt just for a few weeks or months but can go on for years and years and they can take a big toll on peoples sense of wellbeing.
I have been humbled in my work to have people who have placed their trust in me sharing the struggles they experience living with obesity. I have learned an enormous amount from them and am thankful to be able to have had an insight into some of the many challenges they face daily on an interpersonal level, an intrapersonal level, a societal level, and on a healthcare level.
Due to the ongoing public narrative that weight loss is solely dependent on an individuals control and will power, many people have been left confused, attributing their excess weight to some sense of personal failure. This makes me sad because it is this narrative that amplifies their inner knowledge that something deep down inside them be is going on when it comes to their weight (but are not believed). And it also perpetuates that idea the solutions lie solely in some type of diet and exercise regime and self-control. This can lead to feelings of shame and fear of speaking out and asking for help.
There is an argument in popular weight loss programs that taking medication or having surgery to manage excess weight is cheating and taking the easy way out. I have heard this many times.
Oh my goodness this is so far from the truth. There is nothing easy about major surgery or taking medications, some that may have unpleasant side effects.However, sometimes this surgery is life saving, and these medications are also lifesaving. There are many people who have spent years trying different diets, trying in vain to show themselves and others that they are in control, and that they have "got this". When in fact it was never about being "in control" or having "got this".
It is a misguided idea that we are 100% in control of our biology and genetics. For those who do not live with obesity managing weight, through diet and exercise alone may well be all they need to do, just like for those that don't have asthma can manage their breathing, just by well, breathing. But for others it is not the case and it is important to give space for people to be able to reach out to ask for more help if they feel they need it.
The reality is that having obesity is NOT a choice, and is not about will power. Rather, obesity is a chronic medical condition with a complex science behind why it. There are over 140 genetic regions on our chromosomes are now known that influence body weight.
Imagine saying to someone with asthma "it's simple all you need to do is "just breathe harder"
Medication and surgery have saved the lives of people I love dearly who have had a diagnosis of serious illness.No amount of good intentions, self-control, healthy eating, clean air or positive attitudes alone was enough to cure them.
Yes, absolutely all of those things play an important part in maintaining ongoing good health and healing but I think a conversation that is not so focused on there being only one type of treatment for complex health conditions would help save a lot of sadness and frustration, and ultimately lives.
When talking about long term weight management, for some people, diet and exercise is all that's needed, and for others extra support and other interventions are needed. It is important to note here that wanting to lose a few extra kilos, and having obesity is not the same thing. Thank goodness we live in a time where this is starting to be recognised and more help is at hand if needed. I'm not saying surgery; medication or counselling is the only way to go. I am saying they can be a helpful way of managing weight if needed, especially when other interventions are not working. So please don't feel shame if you do need additional interventions and support. There is lots of hope and help for you.
Ginette Lenham © September 2021