A recent blog by a well-respected New Zealand specialist got me thinking. Having tirelessly worked to prevent type 2 diabetes and obesity, she has understandably called it quits. In a blog, she commented that she no longer asks people to lose weight. Also that encouragement of dieting by nutritionists and other groups is taking attention away from public health strategies that aim to improve the food environment.
This made me think: by helping people lose weight am I just adding to society’s view that “we are fat because we choose to be”? Well, first of all…
I definitely don’t believe that putting on weight is a choice that people make.
Some people definitely have a bigger appetite and/or lower satiety than others (so they don’t feel full as easily). For other people, their eating may be connected to their emotions, whether they are aware of it or not. Then there is the environment around us, where it is impossible to avoid high calorie food options and harder to find healthy options. Compare the number of takeaway joints with the fruit and vege shops in your neighbourhood if you’re not sure what I mean.
I agree that public health initiatives are vital in changing our environment so the healthy choice is the easy choice. So why do I still think it’s still worthwhile to help people lose weight? For one thing, I can’t imagine that the food environment is going to improve enough, at least in my lifetime, to make a difference to us now. In the meantime, people need to work out how to navigate their way around a world that includes a huge number of companies making money out of food that we don’t always need.
And what about the fairly low success rates with losing weight, or at least keeping it off? Yes it’s true, although it’s a lot more likely to happen if you decide that the change is important to you and you have support to lose weight.
Finding a way of eating healthily for the long haul, while still enjoying food, is the heart of the matter.