According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than a third of adults in the United States — 35.1% — are obese. And if you aren’t obese, defined by the CDC in adults as having a BMI of 30 or higher, chances are you’re at least overweight, as 70% of Americans are in this category (BMI between 25 and 29.9). Now, those are pretty heavy statistics.
National campaigns have been created. Exercise regimes and specialty diets have proliferated. Bloomberg even tried taking away your Big Gulp! But nothing seems to work to help society to ‘skinny.’ Where should we lay the blame?
“Despite all the attention, an unhealthy amount of body fat remains an insidious problem,” says Dr. Eleazar Kadile, an M.D. who specializes in treating patients with obesity and associated chronic disease. “Most of us know we’re facing a national health crisis, yet diets for millions of Americans continue to be based in heavily processed foods. Obese people often live in perpetual shame, and many others believe they are right to blame the overweight and obese for their problem.”
Despite a national push to promote nutritional education, the problem persists. Kadile agrees there is work to be done…but he argues that turning America into the ‘Obese Police’ and shaming the heavy isn’t helping matters. He’s one Dr. that is on the side of the overweight — saying that maybe it’s actually not their fault that they are heavy.
As the Director of the Center for Integrative Medicine in Green Bay, Wisconsin and author of “Stop Dying Fat,” Kadile blames not gorging and gluttony, but rather poor attitudes and lack of understanding for their contributions to the national crisis. Here the Dr. attempts to debunk five myths about being overweight or obese:
Myth: “It’s your fault that you’re fat.” Obesity is caused by complex imbalances within a person’s body and his or her environment, explains Dr. Kadile. Sure, imbalances are certainly exacerbated by poor dietary choices, but also by personal history and psychological patterns. Kadile holds that together, all of these causes— the physiological, psychological, social and environmental — create a vicious cycle that obese people are drawn into and unable to get out of.
Myth: Obese people are among the “fat and happy.” Society isn’t usually kind to large people. Everyday indignities include transportation troubles, advertising campaigns and in-store shopping geared toward smaller sizes, and national health campaigns that focus naively on diet and exercise to help those struggling with weight issues. Dr. Kadile laments that obese patients spend an average of nearly $1,500 more each year on medical care than other Americans, and says that often they are actually masters at suppressing their suffering and shame.
Myth: Obese and overweight people just need the right diet. There’s no shortage of diets that promise amazing results, but changing one’s weight — and entire lifestyle — is not as simple as it seems. What and how one eats are just the preliminary parts of an excessive body mass index level, according to Kadile. Other important factors to achieving a healthy BMI include good information regarding one’s health, sustained motivation to change, continuous learning, vigilance and an ability to be extremely honest. Everyone — yes, everyone — has trouble with some of those areas.
Myth: Food is not an obese individual’s friend; exercise is. Eat less; exercise more; lose weight – those have been the commandments in the ‘religion’ of weight loss. But most obese people have tried this and it hasn’t worked. The key is to target an obese person’s specific set of problems. “Sometimes, you need to eat fat – the right kind – in order to burn fat,” suggests Dr. Kadile. “And, many exercises can actually harm an obese person. You can’t impose cookie-cutter solutions to this complex problem and expect them to work.”
Myth: Fat people need to “just do it” – lose weight. This attitude is not based in reality; it’s an over-simplistic response for a frustrating problem. “Morbidly obese patients need plenty of preparation. When a patient comes to me,” says Kadile, “I go through a rigorous list of questions regarding medical and family history. I ask about eating, sleeping and activity patterns, as well as medical conditions, emotional patterns, stress histories, good times and bad times, etc. I also have them go through an extensive battery of medical tests. That’s the effective and safe way of doing it.”
In other words, obesity is a complicated epidemic, and suggesting a remedy of “just do it”… isn’t going to do it.