Tuesday, October 10, 2006

For Most People Obesity Isn't A Disease, It's A Conscious Choice They Make

You know how much I love to step on people's toes on the subject of weight loss and obesity, don't you? LOL! I don't do it intentionally out of any vitriol hatred for people who want to lose weight or stop being obese. Actually, just the opposite is true as those closest to me will tell you.

My primary motive and mission in writing about this very sensitive and difficult subject so often is to help others who were in the same situation that I was in when I weighed 410 pounds so they can have the opportunity to not just lose weight, but keep it off for the rest of their lives. Because of the miracle that took place in my life because of the low-carb lifestyle, this is the least I can do to give back to others so they can hear from someone who has been where they have been.

With that said, I need to address an issue that seems to come up from time to time in the context of discussions about obesity that are quite disheartening to me. It seems rather innocent enough, but I believe it is a concept that is without any merit for most people who are overweight or obese. What is it? It's the insane idea that obesity is an illness or disease.

If ever a flimsy excuse was invented to explain why people are so fat, then this is it! What's amazing is that this is something I even realized way back in the middle of my weight loss experience in 2004 when I wrote this column even as I was still working on shedding the pounds. It was that crystal clear to me at the time when I still hovered around 300 pounds and it still is today as I approach 200 pounds.

Why do we go around making up diseases for every problem that we have nowadays? Could it be that we don't really have a disease, we've just made some really bad choices for ourselves, hmmmm? Consciously choosing to do something that is detrimental to yourself in some way does not mean you are sick. Misguided, ignorant, or even bored, perhaps, but NOT stricken with an indomitable disease that cannot be overcome.

I was reminded of this subject after receiving an e-mail recently from one of my readers who is a diabetic and has lost about 40 pounds since recommiting to livin' la vida low-carb at the end of June. He shared with me how he started off at over 300 pounds, used to take all kinds of medications for his diabetes (a REAL disease!) despite the recommended low-fat diet changes, and his blood sugar was through the roof. But now he's down close to 260 thanks to livin' la vida low-carb and is completely off of his diabetes medications.


In addition, he gets in regular exercise by riding his bicycle often and even finished his first 50-mile ride on a recent Saturday morning. He tries to get in about 15 miles daily, five days a week with longer rides on the weekend. It sounds like my reader is well on his way to learning the invaluable lessons that it takes to keep the weight off over the long-term. Kudos!

However, one thing about his e-mail concerned me greatly when he responded to the following quote I made in this recent blog post about New York City health officials proposing to ban trans fats in restaurants.

Here was the passage he quoted from my blog:

"It's amazing, but people are always saying to me now, 'That's easy for you to say, you don't have a weight problem.' That's right, I don't--ANYMORE! But it was just a little more than couple of years ago I was walking around this world as 400+ pound man looking for answers to my morbid obesity problem, too. I found the low-carb lifestyle and it changed my life forever."

The response my reader gave me is why I wrote this post today.

"Isn't having a weight problem the same as any kind of other disease? You may have it under control, but you still have it. I think that part of today's problems is that you start losing focus on what you are doing and all of a sudden the pounds start creeping back on. Just like my diabetes. I may not show any signs of it, but I still have it. Any slip ups in my diet or exercise and I will be right back where I started. I guess what I am saying is that even when I reach my weight goal I will still have a weight problem. I will for the rest of my life. I think that if I live in that kind of reality I will be much more successful with my new life. Thanks for doing such a great job and for helping me be successful."

While I am certainly thrilled with that kind of positive attitude about dealing with a serious weight problem, there are some flaws in that kind of thinking. Yes, you want to keep the right focus and make those big changes in your lifestyle to keep the weight from ever coming back again. But it is not necessary to take on the mindset that obesity is a disease like cancer, tuberculosis, and polio. It is not even close to being the same.

I suppose it could be argued that obesity is a mental disease, but again that gets people off the hook of putting in the necessary effort to lose weight. They may think, "Oh well, I guess I'm fat because I'm sick in the head, so I suppose I'll be this way forever!" UGH UGH UGH! Is it any wonder why obesity keeps getting worse as this line of thinking becomes the prevailing thought in America and around the world today?

And let's also not forget the phamaceutical companies who are licking their chops waiting in the wings to swoop down and save the day with weight loss miracle pills like this, this, and this. Oh, and don't forget about that obesity vaccine they are working on, too! Yikes!

People please stop falling for nonsense like this. Obesity is NOT a disease and it never has been. Sure, there are SOME people who have trouble losing weight because their body is metabolically resistant for one reason or another. But for MOST people who are walking around 50, 100 or 200+ pounds overweight, there's one common explanation for why they got that way: POOR EATING HABITS!

It's not a slow metabolism. It's not because you don't have time to eat healthy and exercise. It's not because of your kids, your grandkids, your Uncle Buck or your Aunt Gertrude. You don't have any excuse for why you got to be as big as you have except for one person: YOU!

What gets me is how people will whine about their weight getting worse and worse while stuffing their mouths with doughnuts, potato chips, and other junk comfort foods. It's a vicious cycle: you get fat, you get depressed, you eat to comfort your sadness, so you get fat some more, you get more depressed, you eat even more to cover the pain--IT NEVER ENDS! I was in that cycle once and it's no fun at all.

I am often criticized for my staunch philosophy regarding personal responsibility. That's fine that people don't want to hear the truth, but that won't stop me from telling it and I make no apologies for it. At the end of the day, nobody is in charge of your life except for YOU. If something is not working right in your life, such as an out-of-control weight problem, then YOU are the one who must change it. Nobody else is going to do it for you, although the government certainly tries.

This is a controversial topic, I understand, because people desperately want a reason for WHY they can't seem to lose weight on the same old diets they always go on. Something's gotta give, right? However, excusing obesity as a disease is like those in the "fat acceptance" movement who say they are content with where they are because they think that's where destiny would have them to be forever. WRONG!

I know better because I've been in that position before and have now come to the other side. Obesity is not the final destination for ANYONE who truly wants to lose weight and get healthy. I'm not saying it will be an easy road because it won't be. But nothing worth having ever is. The time has come to stop lying to yourself and start losing weight.

Do it today--NOT TOMORROW because you are not promised that day will ever come--but TODAY is the day you should commit yourself fully to an effective and healthy weight loss plan that will begin the process of transforming your life into the person God meant for you to be. The days of pointing fingers and making excuses about your weight are over. It's time to get serious about your weight problem and to take back full control of the situation before it is too late. YOU CAN DO THIS and I am here to help you in any way that I can as you travel down this journey towards improving your health for many years to come.

If you decide to start livin' la vida low-carb, then it very well could be the best decision you will ever make in your life. It certainly was for me and I will continue to reap the benefits of that choice I made on January 1, 2004 for the rest of my life. The same thing could happen for you, too. GO FOR IT!

E-mail me anytime with your questions or comments at

10-11-06 UPDATE: Here's what one of my new British readers had to say about this blog post:

"I have just been reading your site about low carb. The part where you put your neck on the block and say being overweight is mostly our own faults, I couldn't agree with you more...I am fat because I eat the wrong food and don't exercise enough.

I believe in low-carb food as humans didn't evolve on eating many carbs, when we were apes in the trees we would eat vegetation and probably any meat we could catch. Then we evolved to hunter gatherers what did we eat...what we could find, meat and vegetation probabaly not many seeds and only roots in season, no processed stuff and most likely not any bean type plants as they are mostly poisonous unless cooked.

Also you risked getting badly stung by bees if you wanted sweet items, out of the fruit season, hence why we like sweet things body does not need to do much work to make it useable. But in the days of not much food and a lot of work to get it this was not a problem.

Humans are hunters--front-pointing binocular eyes tells you that. I don't think people had problems like obesity before modern times when we started being farmers and eating bread and sweet things, and not having to work so hard to find food. Too much TV and stuff on shelves has made it far too easy to eat the wrong kinds of food all the time."

Well-stated! Glad to see SOMEBODY agrees with me. :)

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Blogger Demented M said...

I often see essays like this written by people who have lost weight and the underlying assumption is that their experience applies universally and without exception to everyone else. It's the 'I lost weight and so can you' combined with the 'I didn't take responsibility for myself and neither do you' biases.

It's great to share and even proselytize, so other people can learn from your success, but sweeping generalizations made through the prism of one person's experience are not always accurate.

My obesity was part of a disease process and I am not the only one. For many years I did blame myself. So did my doctors and my family despite the dieting and exercise (I even taught aerobics).

There really are people out there sincerely trying to lose weight, but can't. Not everyone is a lazy couch potato.

I like the fat acceptance movement because it gives people permission to love themselves and live their lives as they are. When everyone around you devalues you as a person solely because of your weight, a little self-acceptance goes a long way.

People are overweight for different reasons. Identical problems do not always have identical solutions. Obesity is not always a health problem--I had, normal blood sugar, low blood pressure and low cholesterol when I was overweight. I was in better shape than my thin counterparts.

Don't get me wrong, I LC and it really has been my salvation. But losing weight has not improved my health or life. It has not been a panacea for all that ails me. Nor has it been a miracle. The docs hoped weight loss would ameliorate some of my health issues and it hasn't.

Of course, that is not to discount the experience of the diabetic you mentioned. It is simply to provide a counterpoint, an illustration of identical problems do not always have identical solutions.


10/10/2006 9:31 AM  
Blogger Duchess of Dork said...

Ahh, I see what you're saying, and in most ways I agree. But I've been livin la vida low carb for about four years now, and I'm still around 20lbs overweight. I don't think I have a "fat disease" (lol!), but I have a feeling it's due to other things, such as my polycistic ovarian syndrome, the way I'm shaped, ect. ect... so while I'm doing everything I can to get "in shape" (meaning 115lbs, which would be "normal" for someone 5'1"), it's just not possible without lypo.

10/10/2006 9:33 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

IMO, obesity is a carbohydrate metabolism disorder. Call it Syndrome X, or whatever, it's still a metabolic disorder. In some ways, it's an extreme survival asset that has gone haywire in our modern times with constant carb intake. Obesity is not a mental disease, nor can it be solved with magic pills and vaccines. It requires a permanent change of lifestyle because the morbidly obese will always be obese if they eat carbs, even minimal amounts of them. In that sense, it's really not the morbidly obese persons fault they're that way, it's just the way their bodies handle carbs.

I've been morbidly obese since the age of 12, I know what I'm talking about here.

Acculturation has a lot to do with it because you learn what to eat at an early age from your moms (and/or dads).

This is why it's difficult to stay on diets for a long time, because we're hardwired to eat certain things. This is also why failure of acculturation is a serious societal problem. This is why I avoid low carb products and sugar alcohols because it reinforces the bad wiring even if it's just the low carb version. It's like a severe alcoholic chooseing to drink near beer. Why take that risk? Once I came to grips with the acculturation arguement I'm able to stay cheat free and focused because I know what my body needs and what my mind wants are two different things.

The Zero Carb Daily

10/10/2006 10:22 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Hey demented,

I appreciate your comments and agree that there are no "identical solutions to identical problesm." That is why you hear me say that people should find what works for them, do it to the letter and then keep doing it for the rest of their life. That has, is, and will always be my motto.

But giving up hope on weight loss is NEVER an option. That's my problem with the "fat acceptance" movement. We get into the mindset that it is normal to be overweight or obese. YES, I'm more impassioned about this since losing weight, but it is a truth that has existed long before I even thought about weight loss.

It's not an easy problem to resolve, but SOMETHING should be done.

As for your comments, Duchess, I know how intimidating it can be to try to lose that last little bit. Maybe a change is in order like the omega diet I have been doing lately to kickstart you into the finish line. It can happen...just keep at it!

GREAT COMMENTS! Anyone else?

10/10/2006 10:27 AM  
Blogger Duchess of Dork said...

That diet you linked looks a lot like what I'm doing now, except I eat a lot less! Like, no dessert and half of the eggs and half of the dinner. Maybe I need to eat more to lose more?? Hah!

10/10/2006 11:02 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Seriously, you probably aren't eating ENOUGH calories, Duchess!

10/10/2006 11:55 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

The question I would ask Duchess is how many carbs do you eat a day, regardless of calories? Therein lies the answer.

10/10/2006 12:05 PM  
Blogger Duchess of Dork said...

I take in a maximum of 40 carbs a day, and drink around 4-6 8oz bottles of water. Most of my carbs come from the spinach wraps for my lunch-time wrap, salad vegetables, and the spare apple every once in a while.

10/10/2006 1:02 PM  
Blogger Demented M said...

I wanted to clarify LC is my salvation because I could finally freaking lose weight! But that's all it did for me. Health issues remain the same.

Personally, I'm more interested in health than weight. I like being thinner, but it's something of a hollow victory in terms of my health.

I still have to disagree with you on the Fat Acceptance movement. First, medicine still hasn't found all the answers and we've (or at least I have) all met people for whom LC didn't work. People who planned the work and worked the plan and...nada. So, why can't people just let it go? Why shouldn't people accept themselves as they are? Why do we need to berate the public to stop being so large? When are we going to target all those thin folks who eat all the wrong foods and don't exercise? The only difference, they don't have to wear their bad habits as excess fat so they're harder to spot. It's okay for the size 4 blonde to accept her flabby stomach because, under the clothes it looks flat (I've seen these women,I'm not making this up), but not okay for someone who can't hide the flab to do the same?

Live and let live. Share your experience and if people aren't interested and want to enjoy their lives as they are, that should be okay. It should _always_ be okay to love yourself as you are, not in a co-dependent or destructive way, but in the true spirit of acceptance and emotional health.

Sometimes, at the end of the day depsite your best efforts, all you have is self acceptance and little else.


10/10/2006 1:11 PM  
Blogger LCforevah said...

It's the lowfat/highcarb paradigm that makes it feel like a disease, because it's so hard to have weight loss for some people on any high carb program. If it's that hard, it must be a medical problem! When you add drugs, like those for weight loss or diabetes while doing such an unsuccessful diet, it looks like a disease in hindsight.

Now that I'm doing zero carb, the ease of my daily life is really startling. No brain fog, no moodiness, no feeling vaguely unwell and achy. There's no cooking of complicated recipes that I no longer need in my routine. Whether it's a week of losing weight or losing inches,(it doesn't seem to go together for me)it feels so easy, that as I look around at other obese people, I'm tempted to say to myself that they are stubborn for not doing LC or ZC.

Well, when the entire society is presented with the disease model for every little thing, this is where we end up--with an unbelievable percentage of Americans being obese--expecting the medical community to come up with something, instead of going back to the original human diet.

10/10/2006 1:49 PM  
Blogger AnOldHouse said...

Duchess of Dork said...
That diet you linked looks a lot like what I'm doing now, except I eat a lot less! Like, no dessert and half of the eggs and half of the dinner. Maybe I need to eat more to lose more?? Hah!

Duchess, check this out:
Eating below basal can put you into metabolic starvation mode, slowing your metabolism way down as a survival mechanism.

10/10/2006 3:38 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

40g/carbs per day is pretty high. That amount is probably just enough to keep that 20 pounds on you. Drop the carbs to 10g/day and you'll most likely lose that last little bit.

My theory is that, yes, you can lose weight eating 100g/carbs per day up to a point. Eventually I believe the body becomes more effecient at utilizing glucose for fat storage over the course of time.

That's why I think the CCL thing is bogus. At one point in time you may think 30g is your limit but over the course of time that 30g/day will start putting weight on you.

The Zero Carb Daily

10/11/2006 2:23 PM  
Blogger Calianna said...

I don't think of fat as being some kind of disease.

However, there is definitely something metabolically wrong with those of us who simply can't lose weight (or keep it off) on a "standard" low calorie/low fat diet, while doing very well on low carb.

Or else we're the ones who are normal and those who can eat that way, have plenty of energy, and still keep their weight under control are the ones who are anomalies. :P

Either way, it's clear that our metabolisms (most specifically our insulin response system) simply don't work the same.

10/12/2006 9:49 AM  
Blogger AnOldHouse said...

40g/carbs per day is pretty high.

Rob, just how much glucose do you think the brain and other organs that require it, need in a day, whether from diet or protein converted by gluconeogenesis?

That's after complete adaptation to a high-fat diet, of course, since it is higher before adaptation!

10/12/2006 4:26 PM  

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