The Ten Commandments of Weight Loss - II
Last Updated: April 28, 2015
II - You Shall Not Make For Yourself A Carved Image Or Any Weight Loss Idol
As the second commandment clearly indicates, we, humans, have a strong tendency to make and worship idols, both in the spiritual and the weight loss realms.
Resist The Temptation of Carved Images
As a media dominated society, we often end up setting ourselves up for failure by wanting to be something or somebody else. Or at least to have somebody else's body. Preferably Jennifer Aniston's or Justin Timberlake's - or your choice. We forget that each of us is unique, both in terms of height, weight, build, as well as in personality and talents.
Don't get me wrong. I fully acknowledge there is a definite aesthetic aspect of our appearance, and body weight makes a measurable contribution to it, for better or worse. Likewise, there is nothing wrong with having role models, or weight loss goals to work for. I do think, though, that it is very important that we remain realistic when we set up such goals. It is not realistic to hope for a waist circumference of 30 in., when you start with more than 45 inches. Or to hope to lose 10 lbs. per week (more on this in the next article).
You Should Set Up Realistic Weight Loss Goals
Most obese patients have unrealistic weight loss goals. A study of obese women who were about to start a weight loss program tells it all. On average, they reported their goal was to lose 32% of their weight. These women also reported that their "dream" was to lose 38% of their weight, they would be "happy" with a 31% weight loss, they would "accept" a 25% weight loss, but they would be "disappointed" with a 17% weight loss. It is no wonder that after 48 weeks of treatment, 47% of them did not achieve even a disappointed weight loss.
Here is what a realistic weight loss goal looks like:
- lose 5% of body weight in 3 months and 10% in 6 months
- weekly average weight loss of about 1-2 lbs.
For a 200 lbs. adult, a realistic goal would be to lose 10 lbs. during the first 3 months, and 20 lbs. by 6 months.
If you think about it, 20 lbs. in 6 months (26 weeks) is pretty close to an average of 1 lb./week.
I am fully aware that for some of you this may sound disappointing, but keep in mind that you do not (and should not) stop after six months. In addition, you should know that there are measurable, in fact significant health benefits associated with a 5-10% weight loss:
- blood pressure, cholesterol, insulin resistance improve and the risk of diabetes goes down
- tissue inflammation decreases
- heartburn and acid reflux symptoms disappear
- fatty liver improves
- weight loss is the most effective lifestyle modification in sleep apnea
- as little as 5% weight loss causes significant improvements in pain and function in patients with knee arthritis
I could go on and on with the benefits, but I think you got the picture: there are plenty of reasons to celebrate what may seem, at first sight, only modest weight loss.
One More Word About Weight Loss Idols
Here is a common scenario: somebody decides it is time to lose weight. What do they do next? They look around, they may talk to a friend or their doctor, they may read an article or a book, but in the end, they end up embracing a weight loss program, or diet, and they start worshiping it.
You may think I'm exaggerating, but I see this all the time. The other day I had a patient who had just become a "worshiper" of the paleo diet. It didn't seem to matter that his doctor expressed concerns about this diet having a negative impact on his cholesterol (which was already sky high). He truly believed the paleo diet WAS the ONLY thing that made sense for weight loss. The only effort he made during our encounter, was aimed at persuading me of the virtues of the paleo lifestyle. I guess if I had told him I was going to seriously consider living in a cave for a year or two to immerse myself in a primitive lifestyle, he would have left happy, with a sense of mission accomplished...
Emotional attachment to anything we decide to do is normal, and it fuels our motivation. At the same time, given the incredible amount of fads, quacks and and quick-fixes that abound in the weight loss world, it is essential to maintain enough emotional distance to avoid being trapped into a money- and/or health-losing, rather than weight-losing scheme.
Are You Saying Diets, Diet Pills, or Short-term Weight-loss Programs Should Never Be Used?
Not necessarily. While they are not a lasting solution, these short-term interventions, when used sensibly, can provide a confidence boost at the beginning of weight loss, or they can get you going again when hitting a plateau. They can also be used when more rapid weight loss is desired (say, for an upcoming wedding) than the long-term approach allows for.
The problem here is that the vast majority of popular weight loss programs on the market are frustratingly short-term solutions. Yes, many of them help you lose some weight. But they don't help you change your ways for the long-term, and as soon as you complete them, the weight comes right back, and often with a bonus.
To be fair, I should mention here that there are a few programs, such as Weight Watchers, that are balanced and provide longer-term solutions.
No weight loss program - from Atkins to HCG to Zone - deserves to be worshiped.
In the next article in this series, I will discuss the importance of knowing and respecting your body's basic chemistry and physiology. Don't worry, you won't need to go back to school to understand it.
Dr. Gily Ionescu MD, MS.
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