My primary objective is to break down the paradigm that says if you are overweight, there’s “something wrong” with you and replace that with the fact that some of us are simply born with bodies that want to be larger and brains that want to think about food. It’s only logical! Consider that our culture does not make value judgments against people who are thin all their lives. No one imagines there’s “something wrong” with a person who has little concern for food and may be consistently underweight. In fact, naturally thin people will be held up as examples for the rest of us to follow! But are they really these paragons of good judgment? Do people who are thin all their lives make specific, conscious decisions to deny themselves food they want because it would pack on the pounds? Or are they simply doing what’s natural for them and it takes no effort?
I can’t help it, the man’s becoming my hero. Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, founder of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa writes an awesome blog you should be reading. Find it here. Today he posted an article to health website, Greatist.com, making points that have got to become conventional wisdom if we’re going to truly tackle the obesity problem:
People have different fuel efficiencies, whereby two people eating the same number of calories may see markedly different impacts of those calories upon their weights; the more processed a food the more calories it’ll effectively make available to your body; and some foods will leave you hungrier and in turn (given our caloric modern day wonderland) lead you to eat more.
I make the point that people have not changed, our food environment has. We’re not struggling with more psychological issues and trauma nowadays. We deal with the same life trials and tribulations as did generations before us. We are fatter because our grocery stores contain more than three times the number of items they did just a few decades ago. And at any given time, no matter where we are, we are bombarded with food stimuli, particularly cheap processed food that is layered in fat, sugar, and salt. If you have a brain that tends to focus on food, you can find it lit up and buzzing all the time! We are fed processed foods that are christened with “health halos,” we think a weight loss diet means a frozen dinner every night and baked potato chips. We think if we “just put our minds to it” we could all lose weight with the same ease. Attempts to manage their weight are futile exercises in repeated mistakes for most people.
Add to this struggle the fact that some of us have bodies that manage energy very efficiently, as Dr. Freedhoff points out in the above passage. I like to think we’re more highly evolved! Our bodies were not intended for constant access to food; we really were built to eat intermittently. In a world of feast or famine, who would survive the longest? The people who eat the most plentifully when food is available and whose bodies then store the energy the most efficiently.
The number one thing we MUST do is stop the blaming and shaming. It’s so pervasive, we do it to ourselves. If you struggle with your weight, there can be so many complex contributing factors but one of them is likely NOT a personal failing! Do you call yourself “broken”? STOP THAT RIGHT NOW!!!
If we insist on believing that overweight is a “psychological” problem and what needs “fixing” is our heads, then we’ll never see any significant changes. We are immersed in a food-obsessed obesogenic culture. Some of us find that pretty tough to deal with, even exhausting. Stop telling us it’s all in our heads.
It’s in our grocery stores.
It’s in our restaurants.
It’s in our media.
It’s in our changing cultural norms that connect food to EVERYTHING.
What’s in our heads is noise. Misdirection. Fallacies. Shame. Time to turn it down.