One of the most misleading messages given by many commercial weight loss plans is that you don’t have to make serious changes to your existing eating and lifestyle patterns. No need to starve yourself, or even feel a little bit hungry. No need to forego your favorite dishes, not even pizza or sugary desserts. No need to exercise if you don’t want to. All of this, of course, is absolute nonsense. The truth is that if you intend to lose weight, you have to reduce your calorie intake and burn more off through physical activity.
Even doctors and other health experts are often confused about fat, clinging to myths and misconceptions that prevent them from understanding the latest science on losing weight and achieving optimal health. You are, of course, familiar with many of these myths: Fat makes you fat, fat contributes to heart disease, fat leads to obesity, and so forth. But, simply put, these and other fat myths are big fat lies. Thankfully, the importance of fat is finally starting to catch on.
According to statistics, weight issues reliably rank at the top of all New Year’s resolutions. Sadly, of those who want to do better in that department, less than 10 percent will succeed. Long-lasting improvements are even more elusive. So why even bother, you might ask. The short answer is, because it can be done if done right.
Watching television while eating is a common phenomenon in our culture. Millions of people are so hooked, they seem unable to wean themselves off the tube even for a limited amount of time, such as the duration of a sit-down meal. And it is not just the after hours routine that’s disconcerting. Staying fixated on computers or smart phones practically all day long is commonplace for many. As a result, distracted eating has become the norm rather than the exception.
For many people, weight gain during the holidays is a foregone conclusion. Resolutions to do better this time are largely destined for failure, no matter how seriously they are taken. In the end, the countless temptations offered at office parties and family gatherings prove as irresistible as always, obliterating all good intentions. The cause is not only the availability of large amounts of food, much of it high in fat and sugar, but also the fact that cold and wet weather keeps people inside and devoid of exercise. Eat more, move less – it’s a double-whammy with predictable outcome.
Should carrying extra weight be judged as a matter of personal failure? Considering the fact that two thirds of Americans are now diagnosed as overweight and one third as obese, it feels strange that there should be any prejudices against body fat. And yet, stigmatizing heavyset people is more common and seemingly acceptable than any other form of discrimination left on the planet.
When nutrition professionals talk about “befriending food,” they usually do so in the context of eating disorders. They point out the importance of not seeing “food as the enemy,” as one well-known author put it, or “making peace with food,” as others have counseled. For me – also a nutrition expert – it’s a much simpler proposition. Loving food is to understand what it does, how it nourishes us, and also to appreciate what it takes to make good food available.