"Those fatties sure love their food" was a comment I overheard in a restaurant last week from a women sitting behind me as she glanced over to a table with an overweight family.
I think she is saying what many people believe but what may not necessarily reflect reality. Overweight individuals are not necessarily living the "high-life" -- eating whatever, whenever. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of obesity.
In fact, many of my overweight patients do not love their food... I think some of them hate their food. When I work one on one with my patients struggling with weight, no one comes and tells me how great it is to be at risk for coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and stroke. Of course, we cannot be disingenuous and must admit that energy balance, calories in vs. calories out, is one reason for obesity, but there are several other reasons why you may be fat:
Genes and Family History. Unfortunately, you can get more from your dad than his great sense of style -- you can inherit being overweight. Your chances of being overweight are greater if one or both of your parents are overweight or obese. Genetic factors can determine how your body rations fat and where that fat is accumulated. If your relatives are apple or pear-shaped, chances are high that you will be as well. That being said, fortunately, your evolutionary roots are just one ingredient in your recipe for health and wellness. What we keep seeing is that personal choices can be as impactful on your health as your genes; you may have to play the cards you are dealt, but you can still learn to play smart.
Medicines. Modern medicine is astonishing and can extend lives and greatly increase quality of life; however, some drugs that can help with one biological issue can raise another. Some medicines, such as antidepressants and seizure drugs, can impact your weight. But since these medications are necessary when taken as prescribed by your doctor, we have to adjust other aspects of our diet.
Sleep Deprivation. Sleep is an undervalued aspect of wellness. Studies show there is a proven connection between weight and lack of sleep. I know it's hard in this fast-paced world, with access to a wealth of information at your fingertips, options to binge watch or shop online all night long, but we must choose to recharge. People tell me they have tried everything to lose weight. I say, "Have you tried sleeping the pounds off?" -- literally! With most Americans only getting 6 hours of sleep per night, this option is one thing you can do tonight to kick start your expedition to becoming healthy.
In a country where approximately 69 percent of adults are overweight or obese, we must look at being overweight and obese as the complex medical issue it is. As much as people would like to think it could be fixed just by changing what you eat or working out more, you must have a comprehensive strategy with a medical multidiscipline approach.
Fortunately, many of these obstacles you can overcome. Get informed and get enthusiastic and eager about the most important mission you will ever have. Don't go quietly -- take action today for your survival tomorrow.