by on July 2, 2015

in Monthly

Many families who struggle with losing weight get to a point where they feel stuck; whatever they have heard before does not work anymore. They walk their dog, park the car far from the mall’s entrance, take the stairs, eat out less often and avoid buying sodas from vending machines.

And despite their best efforts, they get stuck at the same spot —some even give up in exasperation. They fail to move forward in their quest to control their weight better.

It has been an honor for me to see these families in the weight management clinic where I work. As a result of listening to their stories and frustrations I have noticed a pattern of what I call “blind spots.”

Summer time is often seen as an opportunity to get kids away from consuming excessive amounts of indoor-electronics. The thinking goes that it is far easier to play outside, hike, ride bikes, swim and go for walks. However, it is also true that when kids are not in school, they are often at home—still stuck by the computer or TV screen—with easy and more frequent access to the kitchen (while both parents often are at work during the day)

Frequent consumption of small volumes of food—even healthy foods—add up over time and the amount of exercise needed to counteract the effects of two bananas often surprise some of us (Two bananas, assuming they are not over-ripe, deliver close to 240 calories; one hour of steady walking is required to burn 240 calories)

The story gets worse if the banana is very sweet. Since families have been conditioned to focus on calories, they often are unaware of the Glycemic Index (In short this index refers to how much a food will stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin) Some obesity experts argue that fats are more important than sugars in causing obesity—thus the relentless lamentations over fast foods with a high fat content. These same experts are silent in their concerns about companies providing convenient foods high in sugars.

In Canada a recent poll informed us that an iconic Canadian fast food company, known for its coffee, is the most admired and trusted company. There was little conversation as to how this company’s predominantly sugary foods contribute to childhood obesity. When this company supports ice hockey we seem to be less concerned —as opposed to the uproar that takes place when an American-based fast food company sponsors Olympic athletes. Once again this shows a blind spot in paying attention to calories, sugars and fats—rather than picking on one factor.

There appears to be a commonly held myth that foods with lower fats taste terribly bad. This is not true if one follows interesting recipes such as the ones found online at www.wellspringcamps.com (These recipes offer ideas on how to prepare foods low in fat, but it also gives information on serving sizes, protein content and calories)

Many national medical associations are proud of their work in advocating for lower fats, taxing unhealthy foods and eliminating vending machines and getting rid of soft-drink-sponsored scoreboards in schools. However well –intended as these efforts may be, it often fails to address emotional eating.

Some patients eat food to comfort themselves when they are frustrated, angry, lonely or bored. Bullied children often use food to calm themselves in the comfort of their homes. To add fuel to this fire some parents use food to express love toward a child—in a effort to create joy and pleasure to compensate for emotional pain inflicted outside the safe home environment.

Obesity statistics—especially in the very young population—concern some celebrities. The famous chef, Jamie Oliver, is an excellent communicator, filled with passion and humor, which makes him attractive and influential. As a result many of his followers “get it.” These followers even put Oliver’s ideas in to action; they do it for a year and then stall due to a lack of consistently moving forward.

Being held accountable consistently is not an easy discipline to maintain. Lack of being held accountable over time is a strong predictor of long term weight management. An individualized plan, customized for the dynamics of each family is often missing in some weight control programs. In fact when I hear the words “We have tried everything and noting seems to work”, I often find out that accountability and self-monitoring has not been tried consistently. These families are stuck—they fail to move forward.

My experiences and lessons learned from looking after obese families inspired me to write a book with the title, Moving Forward. The book is not only about obesity solutions, but the premise is that all of us always are given opportunities to become better at what matters most to us. I wrote the book to serve those who feel stuck in the same place—a place which may cause some of us to quit trying.


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