In Tara Parker-Pope’s recent New York Times article, The Fat Trap, she puts forth the contention that the body will inevitably fight weight loss via various physiological processes, citing numerous studies that show evidence of metabolic changes following weight loss, weight regain, and weight-preserving genes. She even subtly discounts the National Weight Control Registry, a study of thousands of people who have been successful at maintaining a significant weight loss, the purpose of which was to understand and learn from their habits. Their habits include an hour of exercise a day, diet diaries, and a low fat diet. The article puts a grim light on this data by underscoring the enormous effort put forth by successful losers who are basically freaks of nature because most people have not accomplished that degree of weight loss. She questions whether such an enormous effort is feasible or worth it. She leverages comments from Dr. Kelly Brownell, Director of the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Research, suggesting that members of the registry are unusual people who spend every minute thinking about their weight. By the end of the article, the situation appears very grim. The bright spot for Tara is that she felt comforted by these studies and interviews because they show that her struggles are not a result of her lacking character, laziness, or willpower.
Overall, the article feels more like a soliloquy than a snapshot of the state-of-the-state of obesity research. Tara is clearly struggling and is bravely open about that struggle in the article. So many others will relate to her struggle. I wanted to write a reaction to the article because the doom and gloom theme is more likely to zap motivation than spark it. A pep talk is direly needed. But first, some tough love on two points.
Even Science Says I Can’t Lose Weight
If you resonate with Tara’s arguments, I’m as concerned for your ability to lose weight as I am for Tara’s. A LOT. You (and Tara) are on the wrong track. Searching for evidence for why it is impossible for you to lose weight, that your weight is genetically destined, that exercise doesn’t work, that counting calories doesn’t work, that your metabolism is slow, etc, is a sign that you have thrown in the towel and now looking for good justification for having done so.
After Tara interviews a member of the National Weight Control Registry, she reflects, “Just talking to Bridge about the effort required to maintain her weight is exhausting. I find her story inspiring, but it also makes me wonder whether I have what it takes to be thin. I can’t quite imagine how I would ever make time to weigh and measure food when some days it’s all I can do to get dinner on the table between finishing my work and carting my daughter to dance class or volleyball practice.” BULLSHIT. This line of thinking tells me you have forfeited the game.
The key to weight loss does NOT lie in diets and genetics and metabolism. It is a psychological game of endurance. Genes, metabolism, fast food, and all that crap are on the opposing team. You cannot go into a game coming up with all the reasons why you are going to lose. Ask any coach and they will tell you that this is a losing attitude. Your mind needs to be in a place where you are thinking of all the ways you can win. It doesn’t mean winning is easy, it means losing is not an option. If making the effort to win is too much trouble in your mind, then you don’t want the win, you don’t even want to play. People who have lost a lot of weight and kept it off might be freaks because they aren’t the norm, but I sincerely believe if anyone wants to win this game, it is theirs to win.
Tara signs off by lamenting… “While I do, ultimately, blame myself for allowing my weight to get out of control, it has been somewhat liberating to learn that there are factors other than my character at work when it comes to gaining and losing weight.” This entire line of thinking is all blame game. Anyone playing the blame game is allowing themselves to be distracted from their goal. Imagine a basketball game. If at every play of the game you are trying to decide whose fault it was that the point was lost, the ball was turned over, who caused the foul, you are not focusing on how to win, but instead making the case for why you are about to lose. You have predetermined your losing destiny.
Your current weight and your ability to lose weight have nothing to do with your character. Forget about blame. Forget what has happened. Stop speculating about your genes, reading research to support your case. All of that is a distraction. All of your energy should be focused forward. On what to do next. Ask yourself honestly right now, Is this is a game you want to win? Yes or NO? The prize: more energy, better health, and by extending your life, more time with your children. If you sincerely want these things, then find a chair and sit down right now with your calendar and find 6 of the 168 hours of your week that you spend doing something LESS important than: more energy, better health, and more time with your children. Use 5 of those hours to exercise and 1 to plan meals. This is an investment of 3.5% of your time. If you don’t want to, it’s ok, but don’t say it was because your body didn’t let you, your genes didn’t let you, or a study said you couldn’t. The only thing stopping you is you. Are you in to WIN?
I’m going to sign off with a pep talk from a champion. I hope that it convinces you that you too can be a freak of nature.
Need some inspiration? Read my interviews with some Real Life Biggest Losers.Share on Facebook