My Reflections On World Obesity Day (March 2022)
My Reflections On World Obesity Day (March 2022)
It was world obesity day on Friday March 4th and I was reflecting on the many treatments that are available for people living with obesity, in particular just how fraught it can be trying to find appropriate help. Particularly when there is an attitude from the community/media/ social circles among others, that for someone living with excess weight, it is their fault, and if they just tried harder to lose weight they would, well, lose it.
This is fundamentally flawed, wrong and dangerous and it has left many people silently struggling with a sense of hopelessness and shame.
On top of this is judgment. It is not just judgment about someone's weight but about the way they manage their weight.
Asking for help or support can be really hard to do especially if you were raised in an environment where it is considered embarrassing or a sign of weakness. Asking for help with weight management adds another layer of complexity to it, as somehow it has become muddled with a moral debate and is wrapped up with so much stigma that lurks in every corner of everywhere.(the link below talks more about weight stigma)
When it comes to weight loss and long term weight maintenance there seems to be a common but misplaced message that living with obesity is somehow a choice and that it is entirely up to the individual to just take charge and stop eating so much and that they will lose weight, end of story. In fact many people living with obesity do not eat more than those who do not have obesity.
If someone uses medication or surgery to help them manage their weight they can be met with criticism and contempt. I know of many examples where people are told they are cheating or taking the easy way out.
This can lead people to second-guess themselves. Deep down they are sure they need help that goes beyond just "eating less and moving more" but well meaning people and various wellness/health movements tell them that having interventions such as medications or surgery is the wrong approach.
Thankfully we are living in a time where there is more understanding about the drivers and causes of obesity and we know for sure lack of will power of laziness has nothing to do with it.
This greater understanding is helping people who do live with obesity to have access to more long term help such as medication or surgery that enables them to be at a more comfortable and healthy weight.
It is now understood that obesity is a chronic relapsing disease and therefore needs to be treated as you would treat any other chronic disease. This also means that people need to be treated with care and compassion and without judgment.
Having obesity is different to being a bit over weight and this is important to acknowledge as there are many people out there (we all know at least one person who has lost weight on a diet and kept if off or is able to maintain a low weight no matter what they do or don't eat) but I would guess they may not have obesity.
We are all complex, so incredibly complex. Because as humans there are so many layers visible and invisible that determine our health outcomes, for example our history, genetics, family of origin, our living situations, our relationships, our tastes, our loves, our motivations, our lack of motivations our predestined health outcomes, among so many other variables it is impossible to have a solution that fits every persons needs and unique situation.
Blame and shame is rarely a motivator for change, mostly it leaves people feeling worse and sometimes just leads to a paralysis not knowing which way to turn.
I have seen first hand the extraordinary relief certain medications and or surgery has given people. For the first time the noise in their head has silenced.For the first time their gnawing uncomfortable hunger has subsided, for the first time their knees have stopped aching, their blood sugars have stabilised, their diabetes has gone into remission, their thighs do not chafe so much when they walk which causes so much discomfort, for the first time they have been able to buy clothes in a regular shop. For the first time they have been able to take a flight without worrying about not fitting in the seat. So many things that people who live without excess weight take for granted.
I am not saying medicine or surgery is the only way to go but nor am I saying it is not the way to go.
What I am saying is people need and deserve the best care and support available, and that judgment about these choices is unhelpful and can actually make things worse.
If someone living with excess weight reaches out for help, keeping an open mind, hearing their story, listening to what has and hasn't worked in the past, listening carefully to their medical history their inter and intra personal dialogues can help them to make a decision to find the best way forward. They may need or benefit from trauma counselling or help with a binge eating, they may need medications, they may need surgery or they may need all theses options and more.
What they don't need is "I know better than them" attitudes, ridicule, or assumptions made about what is best for them.
The link below explains in excellent detail many of the causes of obesity and also what weight stigma looks like because sometimes "WE DON'T KNOW WHAT WE DON'T KNOW".
I hope you find the link above interesting and please always sing out if you have any questions at all.
My very best wishes
Ginette Lenham © March 2022