I recently saw a young woman in my office who is in her early 40’s and weighs over 300 lbs. We talked about how her weight was increasing her risk of hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and joint problems. We then started to brainstorm about ways to turn that around. This is a little of our conversation:
Me: What sorts things are you doing to try to get your weight under control?
Patient: I was doing really great last summer and lost a lot of weight when I gave up my “drug of choice,” Dr Pepper, and backed away from the carbs. I know what to do to lose weight, but then I fall off the wagon and gain it all back.
Me: What happens to get you off track?
Patient: It’s like being an alcoholic. Unless I stay away from Dr Peppers altogether, I can’t do it. After I have been good for a while I feel like I deserve to celebrate so have just one and the next thing you know I am drinking them again.
Me: Are there other family members who struggle with their weight?
Patient: Yes, but I do have one cousin who lost 80 lbs several years ago and has kept it off. I can’t do it because am the best cook in our family. Everyone brags on what a good cook I am and I feel like I would be letting everyone down if I stopped cooking and inviting them over to eat big meals. Besides, my primary physician told me that some people are just going to be fat no matter what they do! (I did not make up that last part, that is exactly what she said).
Me: I imagine that your cousin was likely told the same thing before she lost that 80 pounds.
Does any if this sound familiar to you? It certainly did to me. What are the lies you are telling yourself that are standing between you and a healthy weight? It is these lies that have placed us among the 85 to 90% of those who have lost a significant amount of weight only to gain it back within 2 years. I am trying to figure out through my research for this blog the secret to being in the 10 to 15% who not only lose weight and keep it off but have found the path to living a healthy life. I am convinced that one of the keys to success is to rid ourselves of the lies that hold us back and to replace them with positive self talk and truth. The battle for good health begins in the mind.
Take my patient, for example. In just a brief conversation we discovered at least 3 deceptions that are holding her back.
1. We can’t achieve good health because we are addicted to junk food.
The biology behind sugar cravings is pretty straight forward. Simple carbs rapidly raise the blood sugar and signals the pancreas to produce insulin to move sugar from the blood into our cells. This causes a rapid dip in blood sugar level that leaves us craving more sugar. The brain sees sugar as a reward which makes you want more of it. The more sugar you eat, the more sugar you will want. The same is true for starchy foods like white bread, pasta, white potatoes and white rice. The way to get rid of sugar cravings is not to try go “cold turkey” but to replace those simple carbs with complex carbs which can avoid the extreme sugar spikes. We can gradually train our brains and taste buds to be satisfied with foods that are not as sweet by dropping one sweet food per week and putting less sugar in our coffee and on our cereal. Telling ourselves that we are hopelessly addicted to junk food allows us to play the victim of our own behavior. If we tell ourselves that we are powerless to change – we never will.
2. Cooking high calorie comfort foods is how we show our love to our families.
I grew up in one of those families of good cooks who cooked delicious calorie laden foods and were actually offended if you did not ask for seconds. My patient even expressed that her family members will be angry with her if she switches to cooking healthy meals. Often we think that obesity and related problems run in our families when the truth is what really runs in our families is poor eating habits! The people in our lives who love us should want us to be healthy, even if it means they can no longer come to our house to pig out. Encouraging and reinforcing poor eating habits is a selfish kind of love. Don’t fall for it. Love yourself and your family enough to prepare foods that promote good health.
3. Some people are just going to be fat no matter what they do.
This last lie is the defeatest attitude of a quitter. We believe it because even though we want to be healthy, we are not willing to do what it takes to get there. If we allow ourselves to believe that getting to a healthy weight is simply not possible for some people we give ourselves a license to eat whatever tastes good and to be sedentary. What difference does it make if a healthy weight is not possible for me? Shame on ANY health professional who would tell a patient this lie. It is our responsibility not to just treat disease but to counsel our patients in ways that promote good health and disease prevention.
So as we move forward in pursuit of good health, let us be careful to monitor our thoughts. Let’s take “can’t “ out of our internal dialogue. Everything that we have ever accomplished in life required effort and started with a belief that we could do it. If we believe in ourselves and stop listening to lies, good health is available to us all.
“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” 3 John 1:2 NLT