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There’s been a debate raging for centuries about the role that nature versus nurture play in how we turn out. One aspect of this dispute is whether it’s socialization or biology that turns us into dysregulated eaters and people who carry high weights. Although I can’t settle the debate for you, I can provide scientific information for you to decide yourself. “Obesity is in the genes” by Jeffrey M. Friedman, MD, PhD (Scientific American, 10/31/19, https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/obesity-is-in-the-genes/, accessed 11/8/19,) explains why a weight-loss focus will likely fail. Here’s some of what it says about eating and weight:
“In aggregate, the genes that control food intake and metabolism act to keep weight in a stable range by creating a biological force that resists weight change in either direction. Moreover, the greater the amount of weight that is lost, the greater the sense of hunger that develops. So, when the obese lose large amounts of weight by conscious effort, their bodies fight back with a vengeance. If you think it is difficult to lose 15 pounds, imagine what it must feel like to lose 50 or 100!”
And this: “Can willpower restrain this drive over the long term? The evidence says that for the vast majority of people the answer is no. A broad acceptance of the biologic basis of obesity would not only be fair but would allow us to collectively focus on health. Even modest amounts of weight loss, far less than would satisfy Maher [referring to comedian Bill Maher’s 2019 anti-fat rant), can improve health and this should be the objective for obese people who suffer from its medical complications.”
What a total bummer, you might be thinking. If my weight is so strongly governed by my genes, what’s the point of changing my eating or exercising? Here are some questions to help you find the answer: What choices are in your control? What can you do that you don’t do to be healthy? What do you do that you’d be better off not doing in order to be healthy? How great will you feel when you have a positive relationship with food? How great will you feel practicing habits that promote the best health you can attain?
Some dysregulated eaters have difficulty shifting from having a weight loss pursuit to a “normal” eater or healthier person pursuit. They can’t seem to give up that weight-loss goal no matter how long we work together. Although dieting to lose weight has never worked for them, they can’t relinquish the fantasy that it will. Hopefully, you’re wiser and more rational. I encourage you to read the whole Scientific American article and spend some time thinking about replacing weight loss goals with health and life skill goals.
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