Treating Obesity: Diets and Eating Programs
As we discussed yesterday, obesity has become an epidemic health threat, not only in the US but around the world. The global phenomenon of more sedentary lifestyles and increased availability of food have reversed the formula of eating less and exercising more necessary to maintain a healthy weight. Therefore, more and more of us find ourselves heavier and heavier each year. It’s no wonder then that an entire industry has developed to help people shed excess pounds; however, in most cases these programs are more successful at separating the customer from their money than their fat.
Several market research firms are actually advising their clients to invest in the weight loss industry, and estimate that in 2013 the weight loss market will top $66 billion in the US alone. Marketdata Enterprises estimates, “The “core” weight loss market–consisting of medical & commercial programs, diet drugs, diet foods, and retail diet products is worth about $12 billion/year. Analysts think that by tapping certain niches listed below, one could add 20% of that number ($2.4 billion) to that figure.” Kind of warms your heart to know they’re that concerned about us, doesn’t it?
Ok we know we have a problem, so what can we do about it? Over the next few days we’ll look at various methods and programs for weight loss and their long term effectiveness. The topics are going to explore “standard” diet programs, the exploding market for weight loss drugs, surgical interventions, and nontraditional interventions such as hypnosis. Today, let’s look at diets.
The “easiest” method of weight loss involves restricting calories and increasing physical activity, and there are many programs out there that will help you do just that. For the do-it-yourselfer you can go to your local book store (if you can still find one) and you will most likely see an entire section filled with hundreds of cookbooks, fitness guides, calorie counters, etc. These are very popular (especially with the publishers and book sellers), and for the most part do offer good advice on how to structure a weight loss program.
Other popular methods involve out-of-the-box programs like Nutrasystem and Jenny Craig. These programs help you lose weight by eliminating the guesswork of menu planning, cooking and portion control. In essence, with these programs you place an order once a month and almost all your food is delivered right to your door. The meals are prepackaged and portion controlled so all you have to do is heat and eat.
You can also go the social rout with programs such as Weight Watchers. These programs offer an eating plan, usually helping the client choose low calorie foods, while offering social support through meetings and regular, group weigh-ins.
Still another route involves medically supervised programs. There is a good deal of variety in these plans which range from meal replacements (shakes, bars, etc.), to severely calorie restricted eating plans. The thing that separates these programs from the blatantly dangerous fad and starvation diets is that the client is routinely monitored by “trained medical experts.”
So, how effective are these programs? The answer to that depends on how you phrase the question.
If you are asking if these programs help people lose pounds, then the answer is a resounding yes. Most of these programs do help people lose a significant amount of weight in a relatively short period of time.
However, if you are asking if these programs help people keep the weight off, then the answer is an equally resounding no. While I’m sure we all know or have heard of people who lost weight on these programs and managed to keep it off for significant amounts of time, the fact is that the vast majority of clients will regain, not only the weight they lost, but additional pounds as well…usually within a short period of time. In fact The National Institutes of Health report that 90% of the people who participate in diets and weight-loss programs do not lose significant and sustained weight.
You see, the problem with most of these programs is that they concentrate on the process of weight loss, but do little or nothing to actually help the client make the changes to their lifestyle that will help them maintain their success. Most of these programs also neglect to help the client make psychological changes, that is, changing how they think about themselves, their relationship with food, and when…where…and why they eat.
So, am I telling you not to try these programs? Not at all. Doing something to reduce your weight and body fat, even if it isn’t for the long-term, is better than doing nothing at all. However, you also need to consider the fact that repeatedly losing and regaining weight, the “yo-yo” effect, will condition your body to these weight swings and make it harder for you to lose weight in the future.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at the ever expanding (pun fully intended) field of weight loss drugs.