I Know I Am Obese; Where Do I Begin??

This is the question I am most often asked. My patients come dragging in reluctantly, sent to Obesity Clinic by the primary care doctor or their own frustration and failing health. They are certain they will be given a lecture and a diet or told to go have surgery. They are surprised when they leave my office with directions to eat chocolate, take these supplements, get some more rest, and stop working out so hard.

“WRONG” says the medical world and the diet industry and every magazine you read. Restrict your diet! Quit eating things you crave! Work out harder! No pain, no gain! YOU MUST SUFFER!!!

Puhleeze. As if obese people aren’t already suffering.  Apparently all those skinny trainers and nutritionists and doctors think we were having a great time during those lonely nights by the refrigerator or trying to run in gym class with our thighs chafing.

I have news for you if you are obese. You have suffered enough. You have struggled enough. It isn’t difficult to lose weight, it’s just different than what you have been told.

By the time a person has become obese, they have an ailing body, even if there are no visible end-stage diseases such as diabetes or hypertension. Pain, inflammation, changes in metabolism, nutritional deficiencies, altered brain chemistry. It’s not fun to be morbidly obese. It hurts physically and emotionally.

If you push a broken body (or a broken car) too hard, it breaks down further. To your body, exercising and nearly starving feels like incredible stress. So does divorce, bankruptcy, unemployment, problems with your kids, or working two jobs. Your brain doesn’t make a distinction between one bad stressor and another bad stressor. To your million-year old brain, bad stress means the famine is coming. (Remember that one? 7 lean years?) “OMG,” says your brain to each one of your body’s many trillion cells, ”We’re starving to death…HOLD ON TO OUR FAT!!! We need it!”

Ever see the program where the fat people stop losing weight as the workouts get harder, until they go home, relax and eat? It’s called stress relief.

Welcome to the No-Stress Zone. Here’s where you start, and this is the first of many blogs that will help.

You start by determining what very small change in your food you can make today that will not send your brain into a starvation frenzy. If you drink 5 sodas a day, can you drink 4 and one water? If you skip breakfast and binge every night, could you move a little food earlier in the day? My first change was drinking coffee instead of lattes. And if I really wanted a latte, I would have one.

Next, what movement can you do that WILL NOT HURT?? Can you stretch a little in your chair? Can you walk a little? I started out cycling my legs in the bathtub – it was the only place I didn’t have pain.

Finally, what joyful or relaxing moment can you treat yourself to today? When’s the last time you heard music you loved, or called someone you care about? Or took 10 minutes to read something beautiful?

And when you wake up tomorrow, do this again. A little further. A little longer. And again the next day, and the next.

That’s it.

That’s the secret to losing weight with obesity.

Small, easy, sequential changes that add up over time. And give your body and your mind a chance to heal with each small adjustment.  From my husband who lost over 100 lbs: “Tell them this is the first of many small changes they’ll make, and they’ll be surprised how easily they rack up.”

Now that didn’t hurt, did it?