Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Who Cares Why Weight Loss Is Attempted As Long As People Are Doing Something

Dr. Walker thinks people's priorities for losing weight are off

When I read this Irish Health story about a new survey in the UK about what motivates people to lose weight had me scratching my head wondering what the big deal is over why people decide the time is right for weight loss.

The survey of over 4,000 people conducted by the non-profit organization Cancer Research UK found that four out of the ten people they questioned went on a weight loss plan to improve how they look compared with about a third of the respondents who are shedding pounds to prevent the onset of diseases like cancer.

Not surprisingly, two-thirds of the survey participants wanted to lose weight to improve their heart health and they consider that a huge benefit to ridding themselves of the spare tire. Additionally, almost half of the younger respondents in the 25-34 age range were likely to lose weight for their looks compared with one-third of them who do it to lower their cancer risk.

When I started livin' la vida low-carb in January 2004 at the age of 32 and 410 pounds, all I knew is that I needed to lose weight. Sure I wanted to look good, sure I wanted to feel better, sure I wanted to ward off things like heart disease and cancer, sure I had a lot of reasons for wanting to lose weight. But did it really matter WHY?

I mean, think about it. If you are overweight or obese and really need to lose weight, who cares why you want to attempt weight loss as long as you are doing something, right? When did we start micromanaging every single decision in our lives that we have to have the "right" reason for doing something positive for ourselves?

The bottom line is if you need to lose weight, then lose weight. You don't need to know the psychological reasons WHY such a choice is made if it is the right thing to do. Instead, people who love and care about the people who have decided the time is right for them to lose weight should embrace them and applaud their courage for doing something productive towards improving themselves. This whole WHY question baffles me to no end.

That's why the reaction by the Cancer Research UK people is just plain odd. They lament the fact that there is such a "widespread lack of knowledge about the link between obesity and cancer." Well, BOO-HOO! Sure, obesity can lead to a lot of things, including cancer. But we can't forget diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, backaches, joint pain, breathing difficulties...need I go on?

Just because people don't verbalize avoiding cancer as the primary reason for losing weight doesn't mean they don't realize preventing the onset of cancer is a huge benefit to losing weight. It simply means there are a myriad of reasons why people choose to lose weight. That's all. The people at Cancer Research UK are reading more into their survey than what is there.

That didn't stop Dr. Lesley Walker from Cancer Research UK from expressing her opinion about what the survey results mean.

"This research provides a real insight into the priorities many of us have when it comes to looking after our bodies and the low awareness of the link between obesity and cancer," she said. "We know for those who don't smoke, maintaining a healthy body weight is one of the most important things we can do to reduce our risk of cancer."

Um, Dr. Walker, your comments are about the same as telling someone who is fat that they need to lose weight. Ya think they don't know that already?! I suppose these survey takers should apologize for not putting the reduction of cancer risk at the top of their reasons for weight loss. There's no doubt in my mind that I would have given a vanity answer to that survey question if they asked me my thoughts back in 2004. That doesn't mean I don't care about lowering my risk of getting cancer. It simply means that is just one of MANY reasons why I want to shed the pounds. Why is this such a crisis?

Can you imagine if the Diabetes Research UK (totally made-up organization) had conducted the survey and most people said they wanted to lose weight because they didn't want to get cancer? Would a representative from that group issue a press release stating how the public is so blindly unaware and uneducated about the risks of diabetes associated with obesity? Of course not! That would be silly. And that's why the reaction of this group is just plain silly, too!

Once they finished pitching their hissy fit over the survey results, the people from Cancer Research UK released their top 10 tips for living a healthy lifestyle. Check this out:

1. Keep to a meal routine by eating at roughly the same time everyday.

This is not a bad suggestion and I would only add that you don't have to stick to three large meals per day. Break it up into lots of smaller meals and then stick with that schedule each day.

2. Choose reduced fat versions of foods such as dairy products and salad dressings and use sparingly.

That's the best part about eating food is the fat! Why would I want to deprive my body of the healthy benefits of yummy fat consumption? Nope, don't follow this tip.

3. Try to walk 10,000 steps per day. Use a pedometer and remember that you can break up your walking throughout the day.

I've always thought making yourself do something like "walk 10,000 steps per day" was just a little hokey. I'm all for exercise, but just go to the gym or involve yourself in an activity that gets your heart rate up and makes you sweat. Counting your steps is the fitness equivalent to counting calories. You just don't need to do it!

4. Eat healthy snacks such as fruit and low calorie yogurts, rather than chocolate and crisps.

Many fruits and yogurts are much too high in sugar to be "healthy" for you when you are livin' la vida low-carb. Choose sugar-free, low-carb chocolates and snacks instead.

5. Check labels for the fat and sugar contents on foods.

Forget the fat (except for trans fats), but check the carbohydrate content minus the fiber and sugar alcohols.

6. Be cautious with portions. Do not heap food on your plate unless it is vegetables.

While you should never gorge yourself on any food, there is nothing wrong with eat a healthy-sized plate of low-carb, protein-rich, fatty foods that will keep your hunger satisfied for hours. Also, not all vegetables are good for you so don't assume that "heap" you put on your plate is healthy.

7. Break up your sitting time. Stand up for 10 minutes out of every hour.

I work in an office job in front of a computer all day, so I DEFINITELY recommend this. If you are drinking the two gallons of water per day like I do, then you'll have a reason to get up often. :D

8. Choose water or sugar-free squashes. Unsweetened fruit juices are high in sugar so limit to one glass per day and remember alcohol is high in calories.

Okay, this is EXCELLENT advice and I'm glad they recognize that even fruit juices are high-sugar. WOO HOO!

9. Eat slowly and do not eat while watching television.

The message from this tip is to enjoy your food and be conscious of what you are putting in your mouth. If you are distracted by watching television or eating like you are in a race to finish first, then you cannot be savoring the food.

10. Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables (400g) a day.

This is another one of those tips that may not be such a good idea. There's nothing special about eating fruits and vegetables without a purpose in mind. Many starchy veggies and high-sugar fruits are damaging to your low-carb lifestyle. Be smart about the foods you choose to put in your mouth, especially the so-called healthy ones like vegetables and fruit.

I go back to the question I asked in the title of this post: who cares WHY weight loss is attempted as long as people are doing something? Getting people to CARE is step #1 to getting them to take their weight problem seriously and then doing something about it to improve their lives dramatically. It is their choice to make and we can only hope and pray that they do what they need to do before it is too late. That's why I'm gonna keep doing what I'm doing to try to help others help themselves.


Blogger Mark F said...

I think you missed the point of their research.

Their focus is cancer and the best cure for cancer or any disease is to prevent it in the first place.

The study they did seems to show that they have room for improvement in explaining to the public that losing weight and eating a good diet can help prevent cancer.

Knowing the reasons people choose to lose weight are essential for health professionals because it can help them present the weight loss message in a way that will more likely resonate with the public.

8/10/2006 6:55 PM  
Blogger April said...

I do wish people would differentiate between low calorie, nutrient rich veggies like kale and high calorie, high starch veggies like, uh, potatoes. It would be hard to screw up your diet with salad greens. It is easy to throw yourself into a blood sugar tizzy with potatoes. Vegetables are a broad category. I'm all for people who are trying to lose weight eating a whole lot of broccoli, brussels sprouts, arugula and kale and tomatoes, especially if they dress them with olive or flax oil to add healthy fats and help with nutrient absorption, not to mention the delicious flavor. That's worlds apart from eating potatoes and bananas all day.

I totally agree, btw, that it really doesn't matter what motivates people to lose weight, as long as they do it in a healthy way so they don't end up a) gaining it all back b) ending up with a nutrient deficiency that compromises their immune system and gives them weird physical symptoms of illness. Most people know nothing about nutrition, unfortunately, and are too confused by advice from the "experts" to even take care of themselves. This country has a long way to go before the obesity epidemic is cured.


8/10/2006 8:46 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

I didn't miss the point of the survey, Mark. I fully understand they were HOPING that people would mention cancer prevention as a reason why they want to lose weight. But the reality is that isn't the most compelling reason for people to want to lose weight. Looking good has more tangible value to people and I think it's ignorant to be a crybaby and whine because people chose that as their reason over the reduction in the risk of cancer. But thanks for your comments!

8/10/2006 9:06 PM  

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