“Eat less, exercise more” advice doesn’t seem to be people with obesity. As well as over-simplifying the complex causes of this health condition, it could be failing to take into account the extent of the difficulties faced by seriously overweight people. Here’s how.
Mental Health Factors
Depression or anxiety experienced by many people with obesity are part of a vicious cycle that can make &ldquoeat less, exercise more” redundant while more deeper-rooted problems need to be addressed. One possible explanation of mental health problems amongst obese people is that it is often considered acceptable in our society to be profoundly unkind to people with weight problems; “Fat-shaming”, or abuse of overweight people, perpetuates a dehumanising culture of blame and misunderstanding around obesity. According to some estimates, almost 50% of overweight people in the UK have been publicly insulted by strangers about their weight. Three quarters have endured an unflattering comment from a loved one. Unsurprisingly, fat-shaming as a means to encourage weight loss often has the reverse effect; people are more reluctant to leave the house, comfort-eat more frequently, and become isolated and withdrawn.
Medical Conditions/ Other Biological Factors
Eating less and exercising more may not result in significant or timely weight loss because of:
- Hypothyroidism; where insufficient levels of thyroid hormone means that the metabolism is slowed
- Lipedema; irregular fat distribution under the skin, usually around the legs and buttocks
- Cushing’s syndrome; high levels of cortisol as a result of pituitary tumour
- Age; as we get older, it can get harder to shift weight
- Polycystic ovaries; this can result in an accumulation of fat around the midriff which is extremely hard to lose
Keeping weight off once initially lost
If losing weight is the first stage, then keeping it off is the next stage. This stage can bring the biggest challenges for some people. If a person goes from being 17st to 10st, it is much harder for them to maintain a weight of 10st than it is for a person who has always been around 10st to stay at 10st. This stronger biological propensity to regain weight is down to many genetic, hormonal and psychological factors.
It should therefore never be assumed that someone with obesity isn’t putting effort into slimming down. Obesity is a chronic health condition, not a lifestyle choice. A kinder, more sensitive, more understanding shift in public opinion would facilitate a better environment for people who are obese to start to “exercise more, eat less” in the unlikely scenario that they aren’t trying to do so already.
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Image source: www.contemporaryhealth.co.uk