A few years back, I ruminated on a radio ad that trumpeted the claim, “You’re not fat… you’re bloated.” Aside from metabolism and genetic causes, it suggested we’ve been blaming those expansive paunches on things like overeating, poor diets and lack of exercise. Too many of us had apparently been blaming ourselves, but it turns out that it’s not our fault and there’s a magic pill or supplement that will deliver a flat stomach in a fraction of the time it took you to construct that oversized belly. In the latest breakthrough of the not-my-fault-I’m-fat era mentality, we now have drugs meant for diabetics —already blessed by digital monitors to tell them when their blood sugar is low enough at any given hour to rationalize a guilty calorie-laden pleasure— that allow us to shed pounds without so much as a sit-up or having to choose between a side of fries or a salad.
The downside, like many a quick cure for a complex condition, was that it allowed many to justify unhealthy lifestyles and disregard diet and exercise as options for weight loss and improved fitness.
According to the aforementioned theory, which was short-lived as a fad, there is undigested fat just “laying” there in your stomach— described quite crudely as sludge— that was making people appear fat when they were merely bloated. Of course, there was a supplement to counteract this bloating and deflate big bellies into terrific torsos. That was a few years back and part of a movement known as body positivity, which was touted as bolstering self-esteem among the overweight majority, reducing body shame and, therefore, helping us embrace and love our bodies as they are. It was seen as improving the mental health of millions and bestowing upon them a sense of empowerment that was most notable among the healthy and physically fit.
On the other hand, an effort to convince people that they can blame being overweight, even obese, on bloating verged on ludicrous. Stomach sludge couldn’t be blamed on ballooning thighs, hips and other parts of the body. Part of the psychology in convincing people that obesity can be “cured” without months, years, even a lifetime of diet and exercise is to assure them that it isn’t their fault. Again, there are some of us who gain weight when other don’t on essentially the same diet and activity level. That is a metabolic issue and that is a whole other science.
However, losing weight in a healthy manner does require self-discipline, whether we want to admit it or not. It’s not fair, of course, that some of us gain weight much more readily than others and, worse yet, that it is so much harder to take off those extra pounds. Others enjoy activities that promote fitness and self-esteem that most other adults, as they venture into middle age and beyond, don’t.
As we approach the end of another year and looking forward to a new year and a new start, we’re seeing the annual advertising assault by manufacturers of fitness equipment, gyms and marketers of magic bullet supplements and diets. What better time of the year to appeal to a desperate and substantial population?
This year, many of the overweight and obese — about two-thirds of U.S. adult Americans, according to Harvard University’s Chan School of Health— are looking at new savior: Type 2 Diabetes drugs. The surge of non-diabetics who have been prescribed Type-2 diabetes drugs has been so recent and sudden that there are reports of diagnosed diabetics not being able to get prescriptions refilled. That means that physicians are granting requests from patients not diagnosed with diabetes for some of these prescribed drugs. It is justified for one specific reason: being overweight, especially obese, is unhealthy and could lead to failing health.
I was prescribed a diabetes drug, Metformin, about two years ago and went on the heart-healthy DASH Diet, which the most recommended eating plan for reducing high blood pressure and blood sugar. At the same time, I started an exercise program that included calisthenics, weight training and long walks and at my next checkup six months later
There is a range of healthy body weight whatever your height. For instance, a male who is five-feet-nine inches tall could weigh between 125 and 168 pounds depending on his build and lean muscle mass, and not be overweight. Most of us know when we are carrying around an extra 15 to 20 pounds, and that means we are overweight. Add another 10 to 20 pounds and you are entering the realm of obesity.
What other demographic group is comprised of that much of the adult population? You can’t blame people in the fitness and nutrition industries for aggressively marketing their products. As someone who has fought the battle of the bulge for most of my adult life, I think it is a good thing to give people hope that they can optimize their health by losing weight. However, taking advantage of people who have reached the point where they will try just about anything, including surgery, to lose weight is something else. It’s the old maxim: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
We’re all on diets, because the general definition of diet is whatever we eat or drink in a typical day or week. It is a word that wasn’t used much until after we became industrialized. The definition most of us think of today when someone mentions the word “diet” is a regulated program designed to maintain a healthy weight or, more likely, to lose weight.
It’s tough sorting out what is best for you, who is really out to help you and who is just out for a fast buck.
The eight most popular weight-loss diets in the U.S. at the start of the previous year were, according to Medical News Today: Atkins, the Zone Diet, the Vegetarian Diet, the Vegan Diet, Weight Watchers, South Beach, the Raw Food Diet and the Mediterranean Diet.
However, when U.S. News & World Report called upon a panel of health experts last year to rate 38 diets, only the Mediterranean Diet and Weight Watchers were in the top five (tied for fourth). Jenny Craig came in at No. 10. The criteria of these ratings included being “relatively easy to follow, nutritious, safe, effective for weight loss and preventing diabetes and heart disease.”
The vegetarian diet placed 13th and Nutrisystem and South Beach managed to make the top 20, sort of, as part of a three-way tie for 18th.