How many articles have you read that began with some variation on the proposition: “weight control is confusing, and this article will clear up the confusion for you,” and yet the result is just more confusion. So, if I were to say that this article aims to “once and for all” clear up the confusion, I would hope that your completely rational response would be to stop reading immediately. Therefore, I shall make no promises of that sort!
We all know one thing and that is that weight control is hard, even if we may disagree about what makes it so. Let’s quickly run through some of the most important reasons: 1. The environment is a minefield of temptations, both healthy and unhealthy, and often we are faced with too many choices and an overabundance of food (yes, there are still too many hungry people on the planet, but that is a different problem). 2. Social relations often revolve around food, especially holidays, celebrations, romance, watching sports, playing sports (“beer hockey, anyone?”) ….and I could go on. 3. Too many cars and not enough walking. 4. Obesity is in some sense a self-perpetuating condition, with metabolic, psychological, and social adjustments that tend to promote continued weight gain. 5. The very idea that weight control should be easy, which brings us back to the influence of the media and the weight loss industry, always ready to sell us the latest “answer,” which only encourages wishful thinking and short-lived efforts to lose weight.
Once we accept the evidence that weight loss is hard, is the intelligent choice to give up and go with the flow? It is possible after all that the pharmaceutical industry will come up with a pill allowing us to overeat, remain sedentary, but stay thin and perfectly healthy…. just when is that pill scheduled for release? No, I think the answer inevitably comes back to the time-tested method summed up in classic quotes such as “slow and steady wins the race,” and “a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step,” or even “moderation in all things, even moderation.” The point is to envision a desired future and start moving in that direction, and to keep moving even if at times progress is slow, backsliding can happen, and the results are less than anticipated…. keep moving forward because the alternative is worse!
So, we begin the year with the resolution to make things a little bit better, to prevent things from getting worse. Knowing things could be worse, and likely will be unless we create something new through our determined efforts may sound like a “pessimist’s guide to goal setting” but reminds me of one of my favorite books, Paul Watzlawick’s classic “The situation is hopeless, but not serious.” This is not pessimism, but realism, and a different kind of optimism that says that it is within our capacity to shape our future and ourselves, if only we make the choice.
Wishing all a healthy and successful 2017!
Stephen Stotland, Ph.D.
This blog presents some of our ideas about the key issues involved in achieving successful long-term weight control.