Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Plea to Folks who Lose 20lbs to Stop Thinking They've Solved Obesity

I'm sure you've come across this phenomenon before. Some almost slim person who was just barely medically definable as overweight loses 20lbs and suddenly is an expert at preventative public health policies and obesity treatment and prevention. They take their n=1 experience with minor weight loss and decide that whatever worked for them ought to work for everyone, and that clearly the solution to society's weight woes is easy, because hey, if they can do it, so can anyone.

It's a strange and all too common phenomenon. It'd be like folks who just finished their first piano lesson preaching about what it takes to become a concert pianist, or for an Easy Bake baker to speak with authority about the intricacies of baking croissants, souffles and French macarons.

Take for example Jessica Allen. She's an associate editor with Maclean's magazine (Canada's answer to TIME), and she recently penned an opinion piece entitled,
"When it comes to being fat, we’re simply too polite"
In it she details how in response to her physician's, "stink eye", that she lost 20lbs over a 5 month period. And of course, because it worked for her she wonders,
"If we can’t count on our doctors to call the kettle fat, then who can we count on?"
Ms. Allen, I'm sure you mean well with your post, but if you truly believe that what's missing for those who struggle with weight is personal desire and a sense of personal responsibility, and that what's required to help those same people is name calling and shame, then sadly all it really demonstrates is that you don't in fact have a grasp on what it is to struggle with weight, nor an understanding of weight's complex etiology.

Yes, I know, if you eat less and exercise more you'll lose weight, and yes, in your case if you lay off your frozen dinners and get back to your running you may lose the 25% of weight you regained. That said, do you honestly believe that there's a deficit of desire among those with weight to lose, a desire whose flame is simply not being lit by their doctors who for some odd reason don't believe in negative reinforcement?

So forgive me Ms. Allen, if I don't practice my stink eye, for if guilt, shame and name calling were useful in the generalized real world, then the real world would most assuredly be one hell of a skinny place as it currently has no shortage of guilt, shame and name calling for those with obesity.

[Hat tip to friend and fellow blogger Travis Saunders from Obesity Panacea for sending the article my way]