Have you guys seen Heavy on A&E? One of my facebook friends mentioned it so I scheduled it to record and saw my first episode last night. For those that haven't seen it, it is a show that follows two obese people for six months as they attempt to diet and exercise to lose weight. It is along the lines of the other A&E shows Hoarders and Intervention.
The participants on Heavy first meet with a bariatric physician and then go to a weight loss center for a month where they exercise with personal trainers and (apparently) learn to follow a food plan. After the month, they return home with continued personal training, medical care and nutritional counseling. If they don't continue to lose weight, they go back to the center for another 30 days.
My first thought after watching was just how grateful I am that my compulsive overeating is no longer running my life. I can relate to the show's participants who overeat to numb the pain of their lives and essentially live to eat. While my condition was never as severe as the two people featured on the program, I believe compulsive overeating to be a chronic condition that progressively worsens in time. In other words, I could have ended up that bad given enough time.
My second thought is why on earth weight loss surgery is NOT included in the treatment plan of the show's participants. The man featured on the show weighed over 650 lbs. (294.8 kg.) and had a BMI of 90. The woman was over 350 lbs. (168.8 kg.). They both lost significant weight during the course of the show, but statistically speaking they have a less than 3% chance of losing the excess weight and keeping it off for more than one year without surgery. The statistics fall to less than 1% success rate if you look at a period of over five years. Yes, even with surgery, they'd have to learn to eat better and exercise regularly, but they would have a very powerful tool that would be there to assist them even when their motivation wanes.
And their motivation will wane. The male participant in the show had to go back to the center for a second round after he re-gained 23 lbs. (10.4 kg.). Why does our society place such a high value on losing weight without surgery? And conversely, why is weight-loss after WLS not valued as highly?
It makes me crazy that everyone seems to buy into this myth that diet and exercise will lead to a lifetime of healthy weight loss and maintenance. Why doesn't anyone question why that doesn't seem to work for virtually any overweight person in the long-term? Does anyone actually know a real human who lost a bunch of weight and kept it off for more than five years without surgery? I know these people exist, but I've never met one.
I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't follow a healthy diet, but that is very different from "dieting". A healthy diet is one that allows all foods in moderation. Portion control is an essential component and this is why WLS is so successful. It requires that we eat small portions. Dieting, on the other hand, is a temporary reduction in caloric intake for the purpose of temporarily losing weight. A history of dieting is the common denominator for virtually every obese person. Society tells us that overweight people should have other factors in common like a lack of will-power or a lack of intelligence, but we know that to be false. I believe it is the history of dieting and subsequent periods of deprivation-induced eating binges as well as the eventual weight-regain that contributes to obesity. Diets don't teach you to eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full. Often they teach you to become even further alienated from your sense of hunger and satiety by prescribing when and what to eat without regard to hunger and satiety. You have so many "points" or allotted calories or grams of fat or carbs that you can eat each day and so you eat that amount, regardless of whether or not you're hungry. When you stop following the plan, you re-gain the weight and then some.
So check out Heavy. It is compelling and heartbreaking. It may leave you feeling grateful that you found another way out, as it did me.