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If You Are Not Obese, a Health Professional, or Obesity Researcher, Should Your “Idea” Count?



Yesterday, I applauded Canada’s Health Ministers for launching a National Dialogue on tackling childhood obesity. The Dialogue invites “youth 13-18”, “parents, teachers, and caregivers”, “NGOs, researchers, and health professionals”, “business”, and “interested Canadians” to share their ideas on this issue.

These are all important constituencies, perhaps with one small caveat. As one of my readers pointed out in response to yesterday’s post, referring to the numerous comments left on the CBC’s website:

“I, was appalled, yet not surprised, at the complete lack of public understanding of this issue. As I read the overwhelming negative feedback I am aware of how monumental the task of changing the general public perception and understanding will be. It is clear that the majority of respondents felt it was simply an eat less exercise more situation. Having suffered with obesity my entire life I can assure everyone it is so much more.”

This reader makes a very pertinent point. In fact, my own cursory review of some of the comments left on various media websites as well as some of the suggestions posted on the Our Health Our Future website, makes it evident that many of the folks leaving comments and “ideas” are simply voicing widely held stereotypical “opinions” that have little to do with the actual scientific evidence on this topic nor reflect the lived experience of someone who has struggled (or “conquered”) excess weight.

The majority of comments read along the lines of “punish the parents”, “tax foods”, “force kids to be more active”, “ban advertising”, “ban fast food”, etc.

Others comments reflect the typical “I have the solution, everyone else is just too stupid to see the obvious“, while proceeding to blame the whole issue on a single factor (carbohydrates, abusive parents, soft drinks, TV, lack of activity, environmental toxins, etc.).

While Health Canada clearly recognises the complexity of obesity by stating that:

“Healthy weight is influenced by a number of things, including your lifestyle, environment, metabolism (how quickly you transform food into energy), height, age, and family history/genetics.”

little appreciation of this complexity, let alone a clear solution to tackle this complex issue, is evident in the comments or ideas left on the media websites – with one notable exception: comments that are posted by people, who “confess” that they themselves are struggling with or have struggled with excess weight, are almost the only ones that make any sense at all.

This leads me to my rather bold statement that this dialogue is unlikely to be successful or even relevant, if most “ideas” come from people who voice “opinions” based on nothing more than their anti-fat bias, negative obesity stereotypes, or their simplistic pseudoscientific “one-size-fits-all” solutions.

For this campaign to have any relevance and even a remote hope of finding solutions, the only “opinions” that should matter are those of the very people that this dialogue is meant to help – people who actually have the problem or those who are knowledgeable enough about the topic because they have studied or researched it (and I do not consider spending a few hours on the internet browsing websites or reading popular “self-help” books research).

It seems that it is not the people with obesity that need to be “educated” on healthy eating and being physically active – but rather it is the people without obesity that need to “educated” on why ELMM (“eat less move more”) is such a blatantly unsuccessful long-term strategy for most people struggling with excess weight.

So here is my appeal to all my readers: please make sure that the people, who’s opinions should matter the most, take part in this dialogue:

If you are a youth 13-18 (struggling with excess weight click here).

If you are a parent (of an obese kid) or a teacher/caregiver (who is indeed knowledgeable about obesity) click here.

If you are an NGO, researcher, or health professional (who actually understands and works in the field of obesity) click here.

If you are a business (that is not just peddling a “weight-loss” program but truly understands the complexity of obesity) click here.

If you are an interested Canadian (who is actually struggling with excess weight (or has a kid with excess weight) and can speak from personal experience) click here.

Show your support for this Dialogue, make sure your voice is loud enough to drown out the “opinions” of the uninformed, the “shame and blame” mongers, and the people who have the “simple” answers. Please also do not hesitate to vote down the “ideas” that reflect these “opinions”.

I suggest that anyone leaving a comment on “Our Health Our Future” states their personal “qualifications” for their statements – let us hope that Health Canada will pay more attention to these “qualified” ideas than to mere “opinions”.

If you belong to one of the above “categories” and have not yet shown your support for the Canadian Obesity Awareness and Control Initiative for Health (COACH), click on the banner below.

AMS
Lake Louise, Alberta

28 Comments

  1. At the risk of repeating myself …. Thank you and congratulations on your vital work : ” […] It seems that it is not the people with obesity that need to be “educated” on healthy eating and being physically active – but rather it is the people without obesity […]” (Dr Arya M. Sharma 03/09/11) LOL Love it!

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  2. You are missing one group. Those of us who were obese as children, and have learned what our problems were and how to overcome them, and now live at reasonable weights.

    Life as a obese child was not fun, but I survived to become the nasty that I am, and now feel free to abuse the obese-issues-ignorant out there.

    Many of us have specific chronic food issues that the medical community does not know how to deal with, or chose to ignore. Undiagnosed – chronic cephalic phase hyperinsulinemia, chronic post-prandial phase hyperinsulinemia, gluten sensitivity, mineral and vitamin malabsorption, casein sensitivity, carbohydrate intolerance, addiction-like behaviors, often combined with obsessive-compulsive personalities, as well as inconsistent and/or wrong information.

    But what would I know

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  3. “For this campaign to have any relevance and even a remote hope of finding solutions, the only “opinions” that should matter are those of the very people that this dialogue is meant to help – people who actually have the problem or those who are knowledgeable enough about the topic because they have studied or researched it (and I do not consider spending a few hours on the internet browsing websites or reading popular “self-help” books research).”

    DO I HEAR AN “AMEN”?! Preach it, brother Sharma!

    Wow. I have never wanted so badly to be a Canadian more than now. Wish there was a “click here” for US citizens who wish to bring more sanity to the continent. Sigh.

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  4. “You are missing one group. Those of us who were obese as children”

    Absolutely, anyone who has experienced obesity, whether as a child or adult is certainly “qualified” to comment

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  5. I read yesterdays post and gladly signed up to show my support of COACH. Although I did not have time before leaving to meet external commitments to comment on yesterdays posting, I am not terribly surprised that many respondents simply reiterate negative biases. It unfortunately seems to be a common habit to snap off a quick comment without giving the posting any real thought.

    I’m not sure that the opinions considered should be taken only from those who are dealing with obesity issues, but rather that stereotypical negative/ blame laying comments should simply be disregarded regardless of the source. (In an on-line forum it is easy to self identify as a person dealing with obesity and then state the same old garbage). These kinds of comments have no place in any serious program and should simply be removed from any consideration.

    I myself am not a health professional, nor am I an obesity researcher in the sense that you mean (ie: sufficient scientific background and focus on this issue on a professional research level). I am however an expert in being frustrated at the quality of information available to the general public. – Contradictory, scientifically invalid, scaremongering, downright poor nutrition advice and so on…

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  6. Dr. Sharma,
    I’m not surprised by low level of dialogue at the public level. Eliminating the stigma of obesity is going to be VERY difficult. There’s a great book out there for anyone interested called ‘Weight Bias: Nature, Consequences, and Remedies” by Kelly Brownell, Rebecca Puhl, Marlene Schwartz, and Leslie Rudd, 2005. Thanks for the leadership you’re showing and the tips on how to get our voices heard. Its much appreciated.

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  7. While I appreciate the sentiment of this post and understand the problem behind anti-fat (and any other anti-XYZ) sentiment, I think that the solution you have proposed perhaps oversimplifies things and shuts out people who may have something of value to contribute.

    I think asking people to listen is important. But I don’t think that telling people to be quiet is useful.

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  8. A PhD in parenting certainly sounds most relevant to this discussion – the intention was certainly not to stop anyone from voicing their opinions, it was more an appeal to Health Canada to ensure that they perhaps pay more attention to the folks who have more than just populistic platitudes to contribute.

    My post of course was also an appeal to all my readers to get involved and take this opportunity to move the dialogue into a direction which will hopefully lead to meaningful action.

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  9. Hi Dr. Sharma: I have read todays posting with great interest. The hardest thing I had to do was to learn just what a proper sserving was/is. Because I had this problem there are doubtlessly others (maybe many others) who have the same issue. My feeling is that if anyone in pwer wanted to really help the obese to control their weight the persons in powere should start with the resatants of the nation–especially the chain restatants–make it manditory that they have a second menu consisting of one appitizer, 5 entre, and one desert that are in line with the Canada Food Guide portion size then have these items on a double portion so individuals can learn what a portion is and how they feel after a portion. I suggest a double portion section because when i first started to manage my weight and discovered what a real portion was my satisfaction with the meal was very low. This kind of menu will cost the rastarant industry–but it would be invluable for thise of use who want to manage our weight and get it to the proper level. The senior menus would not be to bad but not every restarant will allow a non-senior to order off that menu. If you could bring some of your responses to the health ministers attention so he/she could develop healthier policies been there dealing with that it would be a benefit for everyone–those who are obese and those who aren’t so they can see why so many of us are over weight. Thank you for your resarch.

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  10. I wish I was Canadian so I could contribute. The number one I’d like to see is a public discussion about shaming fat people. It is taken as a given that fatties should be ashamed and embarrassed at all times – even Dr Steven Field, the outgoing head of Britain’s GP organisation suggested publicly that GPs had a duty to shame their patients. Of course, this moralising backfires horribly. If we could take some of the guilt, shame and other toxic emotions away from the problem, it might help things.

    My second suggestion is a small one – bring back school cooking classes! There’s so much hectoring people about food, but very little in the way of making people confident around it. My partner and I have started cooking at home for most of the time, and the effect on both our weight and well being has been phenomenal.

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  11. Also, Group A:

    ” If you are someone who has been obese, has lost enough weight to become normal weight or somewhat overweight (no longer obese),
    and has kept the weight off for a long time (say, 5 years) ”

    These are the people (along with their medical or other helpers) who can offer some effective suggestions, even if their personal experiences won’t work for every other obese person.

    The problem is that those people probably aren’t reading an obesity blog, so they are out of this discussion. Their stories are important for understanding how some people successfully deal with obesity. It is probably necessary to try some other method of finding those people than an obesity blog.

    Also, Group B:
    ” If you are someone who has never been overweight, and whose children have never been overweight, avoiding obesity because of deliberate restrictions on what you and they eat, despite ridicule and negative comments from other people. ”

    For example, the mother who feeds her child specific portions at meals and few snacks, against a doctor’s advice to “let children eat what they want. They naturally regulate their intake. If you control what they eat, they will get an eating disorder”.

    For example, the mother who refuses to let a teacher give her child candy as rewards, providing the teacher with stickers for rewards instead of food, and explaining to the child that this wasn’t a punishment, it was a better reward for excellent work. The mom gets a reputation with teacher and other parents as being a neurotic control freak.

    For example, a mother who doesn’t give dessert at dinner to a child who has had cake at a birthday earlier in the day – which, oddly enough, is fine with the child, but which gets many complaints from mother-in-law, who considers it cruel and unjustified punishment to “deprive” a child.

    For example, teaching your children that being overweight is unhealthy, and is to be avoided. When the kids refuse junk food, and when coaxed to eat say they don’t want to get fat – the children are told they are being nasty and they shouldn’t say bad things about people who are overweight. Huh? The kids were quite right – avoiding junk to avoid getting fat is a good health practice, like refusing a cigarette. (They did not comment on any other person’s weight.) Saying “I don’t want to get fat” is NOT an insult to people who are overweight, but some people take it as such. The only response to “I don’t want to get fat” is “good for you”.

    I am not in group B, but a friend of mine is. Her kids are healthy and proper weight. I admire her care for her kids.

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  12. I’m not sure that the world is ready for my advice on how to raise a healthy child. Its pretty simple though really: never critisize your child, yourself or anyone else about body size or appearance. Practise total acceptance and unconditional love for who your child is as a whole. Minimize their exposure to popular media. Never deprive them of food in any situation. Always ensure that you are modeling healthy, happy eating. Protect them from anyone including the medical community who contradict you. I was an overweight child, who is now an overweight mother to a NOT overweight teenager (whose father is overweight as well). My daughter did go through a number of phases of being quite round, however, we ignored it and just kept up the focus on eating healthy food and having fun. I put into practise everything that would have helped me when I was growing up but didn’t get. Most parents can’t accept these methods, they interpret it as neglect: “Sniff, why are you letting your fat child eat cheesies, you terrible mother”. You have to be as tough as nails, trust your child and yourself and soldier through it. Until the medical community (with the exception of Dr. Sharma) can demonstrate they’ve mended their ways and can offer truly helpful advice. Stear clear I say.

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  13. PS my little jab at doctors above, comes from the horrible medical treatment I got as an overweight child growing up in the 1970s.

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  14. I’m signing up, despite (and perhaps because of) how depressed I feel at the tsunami of hate and prejudice against overweight people.

    The greatest lie ever to take over the world is “eat less, move more”. We cannot find real answers and real solutions as long as 99% of people (including medical professionals), believe this facile bit of pseudo-information.

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  15. Anonymous: Ummm… actually, teaching kids to say “i don’t want to be fat” is an insult to fat people. If your child said that to my child we’d be having a little talk. If its really hard for you to figure this out I suggest replacing it with the word “gay” or “black” and see how its sounds. Does that help?

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  16. The difficulty with the classification of people is that there are within each group people who have little understanding of the issue, and people outside of these classifications who do understand the issues. My qualification for speaking is at my maximum my weigh was 330. Everyone knows 330 is bad news, regardless of height or BMI. Over the course of 30 years of obesity the vast majority of health care providers, at every level, including self-described experts, that I have encountered do not understand the problem. Many obese people, myself included for many years, have bought into the negative messages they receive and likewise have a very poor understanding of these critical issues affecting their health. On a more positive note, I know some incredible people who are not in the healthcare field, have never been obese, do not have obese children and who do have a good understanding of the issues- people who have supported me.

    Rather then exclude people, ask for their ‘qualifications’. Obese, formerly obese, friend, family, healthcare general, healthcare obese-specific etc. Look at contributions in the context of who is providing the information. Then give it ‘weight’ based on the experience of the contributor.

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  17. I’d share my experiences, but I’m not sure whether or not I support COACH. I think that most fat people would be better off not trying to lose weight, to be honest. Also, I’m a Canadian permanent resident (US citizen) who recently moved to the UK, so hum. Not sure whether or not my still-valid Ontario health card entitles me to take part in this conversation or not.

    Anyway, at 5′-4″, I hit 180 pounds at 13 (adolescence), 215 pounds at 18 (freshman 20), and have stayed between those two weights all my life (I’m 41). I was active and ate a (mostly) healthy diet as a kid, and I still do. I consciously adopted a HAES philosophy – I called it “fit and fat” at first – in my early 20s. Being bigger than average hasn’t caused me any heath problems so far, I’ve had a great personal life, and I like the way I look.

    My advice to fat teenagers: Be physically active and pay attention to nutrition, but don’t diet, don’t take drugs, don’t mess around with dangerous surgeries… just accept that you’re not going to be thin and make the best of it. You can be healthy, active, and attractive without being thin.

    The people in my parents’ generation who dieted put on hundreds of extra pounds over the years. Instead of being big, healthy and solidly built as they’d started out – and as I’ve stayed – they ended up very large, with health and mobility problems by the time they were my age. Every time they dieted, they lost muscle. Every time they regained, they put on mostly fat. Based on my family’s experience, I’m convinced that yo-yo dieting is counterproductive and much more unhealthy than maintaining a high BMI.

    So, in my opinion, the problem is not with fat people, but with how society treats us. If we weren’t looked down upon and pressured to starve ourselves, we’d stay in our natural size ranges rather than yo-yoing upward in weight. If we weren’t constantly told how lazy and gluttonous we are, then it would be much easier for us to manage our health and habits in a reasonable, moderate way – just like naturally thin people do. That’s what I’ve tried to do, and I highly recommend it.

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  18. DeeLeigh: my experience mirrors yours 100%. Well said.

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  19. Rachel: Being fat is not the same as being gay or black .

    Kids are under peer pressure to do do all sorts of things.

    To “have a drag”, I teach them to say, “no, I don’t want to get addicted to cigarettes, and I don’t want to get cancer.”
    To “have a drink” I teach them to say, “no, I’m too young to drink, it’s no good for kids.”
    To “come for a bike ride”, I teach them to say ” I can’t until I get my helmet, I don’t want to hurt my head”
    I’m not a neurotically protective parent. My kids handle rowboats, and go in small power boats, but I make sure they follow safety rules. “To let’s go in the boat” they have to answer “not until I put on my life jacket”
    My kids have had instruction in firearms safety, just because we live in a community where many people are hunters. If anyone suggests playing with guns, I’ve taught them to say, “no, I don’t want to get hurt or to hurt anyone else”

    My kids don’t make fun of anyone with a weight problem. They don’t make fun of someone who has lung disease, or who is in a wheelchair, or is disabled, sick, or injured. However, they know that they should do what they can to be healthy , even if sometimes accidents and disease happen despite best efforts.

    I have told them not to eat too much, so that they don’t get fat. (I also tell them what good food they should eat to be healthy.)
    Telling them to avoid getting fat, is, in my opinion, exactly like telling them to avoid accidents, injury and diseases. My kids are pretty decent kids, and I respect their efforts to do the best thing, even if they are, of course, not perfect.

    If people don’t expect them to eat too much, or bug them to eat, my kids simply say “no thanks” and skip eating the wrong food. No problem.
    But, if someone is rude enough to ask why they aren’t eating, or make an issue of their simple “no thanks”, or keeps offering them food, then it is perfectly ok for my kids to say, ‘I don’t want to eat that. I don’t want to get fat”.
    They have to counter the pressure to eat too much, and being clear to themselves and others about why they are doing it is a good way to help them stick to what they need to do.

    Some people are obese because of non-eating reasons (disease, medications, genes, whatever). People without these obesity causing conditions, get fat by eating too much, and for them any effort to eat in such a way to avoid becoming fat is to be commended.

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  20. Anonymous,

    My Mom is a thin health nut. The fat genes are from my dad’s side of the family, but my mom raised me to eat in a restrained way, as you’re doing with your children. Have you considered the effect it could have on them if they turn out fat despite your best efforts? Have you considered the fact that you’re teaching your children that people with body shapes that are different than theirs are ignorant and undisciplined? Have you considered that teaching your children to eat in a very restrained way and to think of being fat as something to avoid at all costs to could lead to eating disorders later on? Just a few things to think about.

    Also, I find myself hoping that your children will bested by fat kids academically and in the extracurricular activities they participate in – not because I wish them ill, but because they’re going to need to be taught by experience that being thin doesn’t make them better than people who are heavier, since you’re sending them the opposite message.

    Anti-fat bias actually does have a few things in common with other forms of prejudice. The main difference is that people like you (as well as most fat people, to their detriment) think that being fat is evidence of character defects, and that fat people can become and stay thin. Oh wait. That’s actually similar to social conservatives’ ideas about gays.

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  21. Not being fat doesn’t make my kids “better than” anybody else.
    Not being fat does make them healthier than they would be if they were fat.

    (If being fat is not a HEALTH concern, this whole issue is just about cosmetics, and the medical profession and the public Canadian health care system should have nothing to do with it.)

    I’m sure you’ll be delighted to know that though my kids are very good students, they’re not top in the school academically – that honour goes to a boy who is overweight. (You can snicker here, and say “ha ha!!) I do not comment on his weight, and I do comment to my kids on what a good job he does with his schoolwork, and how he should be proud of his achievement. I am proud of my kids for working hard and doing well, even if they aren’t #1.
    My kids participate in music festivals and other activities, occasionally they bring home a prize, more often they don’t.
    Not only have they been bested by overweight kids – even very obese in one case I remember- they have been trounced by a kid in a wheelchair. I don’t think, and my kids don’t think, that having a health problem means people can’t do things well.

    It is obvious that children, no matter what their weight, will be “bested” by others in some aspect of their lives. I’m not sending the message that not being fat makes them “better than people who are heavier”. I am sending them the message that being fat is unhealthy, and they should take action to stay a good weight. What does academics or other activities have to do with it?

    (By the way, my kids are normal weight, about in the middle of the weight range for their age, height, sex. They’re not thin. I find it odd that you would assume that anyone who is not fat is thin.)

    What if they get fat despite my best efforts? They could. They could also get anorexia despite my efforts to teach them to eat healthy. They could binge drink and end up in hospital despite my efforts to teach them that drinking must be controlled and it’s only for adults. They could take up smoking, despite my best efforts to prevent that. They could get some disease for no apparent reason at all, for which there is no “best effort” I could have tried. If something is a bad enough health risk to be called an epidemic and have all sorts of medical people and government trying to do something about it, then avoiding obesity is just as important to me as getting my kids their vaccinations and keeping them away from drugs and accidents. Will I perfectly protect them? No, but it’s sure worth trying my best.

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  22. Am I teaching my kids that people with different body shapes are ignorant and undisciplined?

    First, “body shape”.
    We’re not talking here about healthy variation in body shape. If we were, as I said before, there would be no medical or health concern. A person with anorexia or a person with obesity takes variation to the level of sickness. Sickness is to be avoided.
    A person can become obese for all sorts of genetic reasons or disease or medical reasons, for which there is no preventative measure possible.
    However, people also can become obese just because they eat too much.
    Eating too much can make a person obese even if they do not have a genetic or disease or medication or whatever that would cause obesity no matter what they ate.
    (Some people may have genes or some condition that means no matter what they eat they don’t gain weight, but for people who don’t have that, it’s not relevant.)

    My kids don’t seem to have anything that makes overweight inevitable, but there is a definite risk for obesity in eating too much, especially in this society.
    Yes, I teach my kids that being fat is unhealthy.
    Yes, to avoid that, I teach them to be careful not to eat too much (as well as talking about what they should eat to stay healthy)

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  23. Anonymous – Instead of teaching your kids to turn down food they don’t want by saying “No thanks, I don’t want to get fat”, why don’t you teach them to say “No thank you, I’m full”, “No thank you, I’ve had enough”, or “No thank you, I don’t want anymore right now”? All of those statements accomplish the same thing as saying “I don’t want to get fat” without making a judgment about anyone else who does happen to eat more (and believe me, when your kids say “No, I don’t want to get fat” that is passing judgment on others who do take second helpings when asked if they want them, even if it’s not said to the ones taking the second helpings).
    As for whether there’s actually an epidemic of “obesity” or not, if I were you, I’d look at who was behind the WHO when they decided there was an epidemic and that something had to be done about it (clue – it wasn’t doctors or researchers, it was the diet industry and pharmaceutical companies who had a vested interest in finding more fat people to “treat”). Why else do you think that the diet industry alone makes $60 billion a year? If their diets actually worked for permanent weight loss, they’d be broke within a year – believe me, most fat people don’t want to be fat and deal with the stigma and shame heaped on us by most of society.
    You think that people get fat simply because they eat too much? You’ve obviously never read the Minnesota Starvation study – do a google search on it and educate yourself. What contributes to weight gain in a lot of people is yo-yo dieting – diet, lose weight, regain it and a few more pounds, diet again and lose weight, regain it and more, rinse, lather, repeat as many times as the dieter thinks he/she can succeed “next time”. That’s why there are so many diets (actually, basically just a few diets, only repackaged and given different names so that when one fails, there’s another one to be marketed so that the diet industrial complex can continue to rake in their billions of dollars of profit at the expense of consumers’ health).
    How do I know all of this? I started out at a muscular, fit 175 lbs at 5′ 8″ and dieted/diet drugged/weight loss surgeried my way up to my current weight of 375 lbs (my high weight after the failed WLS was 396). In spite of all of that, my blood pressure is still normal, my blood sugar is still normal, and my cholesterol is still normal. My heart and lungs work just fine, thank you very much, even though I’m DEATHFAT (I’ve been told, off and on, for the last 30 years that if I don’t lose massive amounts of weight immediately, I’ll be dead in 5 years – 30 years is how long I’ve weighed over 350 lbs and it hasn’t killed me yet, I’m 57). My weight has been steady for the last 3 years, I eat a varied, fairly healthy diet, and do what exercise I can with severely arthritic knees and fibromyalgia (the fibro is a complication of the WLS, along with a few other complications I’m not going to go into here).

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  24. Anonymous,

    Could you please explain to me how I was (as a fat teenager) or am (as a fat middle aged woman) unhealthy in the absence of any actual health problems?

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  25. Vesta44 –
    Sure, I can teach my kids to say “no thanks, I don’t want anymore.”.
    In private, however, I will make sure they know that they are simply being polite, and they are really saying to themselves “I don’t want to get fat”.

    I won’t teach them to say ” I’m full” because in this society, people eat to the point of being stuffed to the gills before they say “I’m full”. Saying “I’m full” will just get the response, “oh, you can’t be, you hardly ate anything, we’re going to the buffet to get thirds, you come too.”
    Or worse, “I made this especially for you, you can manage just a little bit.”
    It takes while for the food you eat to register as being enough. If you always eat until you feel full, you’ll be slowly training yourself to eat too much.

    Saying ‘No thanks, I don’t want to get fat” is not passing judgement on someone who is taking second helpings. A person who is lean, muscular, and active may need second helpings to avoid losing weight.

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  26. DeeLeigh, nope, I can’t explain how you are you are healthy and fat.

    I can’t explain why some people smoke into their 90’s and don’t get lung cancer.
    And some people who never smoked do get lung cancer.
    Even a significant risk factor for getting sick isn’t a certainty that you will get sick.

    If being fat (ie overweight and obese) is not a risk to health, Dr Sharma is on a wild goose chase, and we Canadian taxpayers are paying for a lot of totally useless clinics and doctors visits and dieticians and treatments and research and public campaigns and surgery, etc etc.)

    Anyway, I’m glad for you that you’re one of the people who have a risk factor but still stay healthy.
    I hope your luck holds – but I’m still going to tell my kids to eat well to avoid getting fat – and to not smoke.

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  27. Anonymous,

    Heavier body types are largely hereditary; they’re not a bad habit like smoking. You may not be aware of what the research actually says about the links between weight and health. The correlations (we’re not even talking about causes) between a high BMI, heart disease and even diabetes are orders of magnitude less than the link between smoking and lung cancer. In fact, if you control for physical activity and other factors (age, etc.), the heart disease risk disappears all together.

    More importantly, if you stop smoking, you stop smoking. If you’re physically active and eat a healthy diet, then there’s no way to predict what effect that will have on your (as an individual’s) weight. However, I’d argue that being physically active has a huge, positive effect on everyone’s health – including the health of people who stay fat – and that eating a healthy, varied diet is similarly beneficial.

    Now, if you have a lot of fat people in your family, then telling your kids “You need to watch what you eat. We have a tendency to put on weight in this family, so you may be more likely to gain weight from eating junk food than your friends are” isn’t a horrible thing to do. It may not prevent them from getting fat, but at least it acknowledges that not everyone’s body reacts the same way to the same inputs. If nobody in your family is heavy, then telling your kids that they’re not getting fat because they eat in a restricted way is disingenuous and prejudiced. Oh course, if they’re smart, they’ll figure that out on their own. They’ll see kids who stay thin eating like pigs all the time and heavier kids eating very carefully, and they’ll start wondering if what you’ve told them is true. I hope they’re smart.

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  28. First of all, I thoroughly enjoy reading the highly relevant and quality material on this site and the debate and discussion that it creates about obesity in general. However, I am somewhat put off my this current article which suggests that “healthy” and normal weight individuals have no role to play or no concern to voice in the debate on childhood and indeed all obesity in this country. I do not meet any of the above criteria to be included in one of the 5 groups (although as a graduate student studying exercise science, I am hopefully on my way to becoming a researcher and health professional), yet as a young, healthy and active individual with a strong interest and education in such topics, I would not discount my opinions too prematurely. Furthermore, how can you possibly suggest that parents are “indeed knowledgeable of;” that NGOs, researchers and health professionals “actually understand the field of;” and that businesses “truly understands the complexities of” obesity?! Surely if this were the case we would not be in the predicament we currently face!

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