When it comes to weight loss, knowledge is power
American adults looking to lose weight are twice as likely to consider an exercise program over consulting a physician, according to a survey from the American Osteopathic Association.
Of those surveyed, 56% of Americans believe exercise programs are the best resource if looking to lose weight, while 28% believe a physician’s advice is the way to go. The online survey was conducted by Harris Poll in January 2018.
That belief could help explain continually rising obesity rates, according to physicians. Research has shown many people overestimate how many calories are burned during exercise and overcompensate when they eat. Weight loss comes down to understanding how your body is influenced by specific foods and exercise, says Michael Clearfield, DO, dean of Touro University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine in California.
Weight loss comes down to understanding how your body is influenced by specific foods and exercise.
Dr. Clearfield explained that the rapid changes required by most new diet and exercise regimens do not allow time for the mind to adjust, which ultimately may lead to failure.
Exercise programs like Pilates, running and kickboxing, as well as diet systems such as Weight Watchers or Whole30, can be effective but often see high dropout rates, Dr. Clearfield explained. Care coordinated by a physician—which may include the services of a mental health specialist and dietician—can give patients the full support network needed to achieve and sustain a healthy weight.
Lapses in adhering to diets or exercise programs often result in weight gain and fuel a sense that weight loss is insurmountable, which Dr. Clearfield says may ultimately erode patients’ emotional health.
Care coordinated by a physician—which may include the services of a mental health specialist and dietician—can give patients the full support network needed to achieve and sustain a healthy weight.
|If you were looking to lose weight, who/what do you think would be the best resource? Please select all that apply.|
|Exercise program (e.g., Pilates, running, kickboxing)||56%|
|Diet program (e.g. Weight Watchers, Whole30)||29%|
|Source: Harris Poll|
Prioritize emotional health
Americans typically take an all or nothing approach to weight loss, which often includes eliminating all unhealthy foods until a stressor causes a break, noted Peter Bidey, DO, assistant professor of family medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Yet a setback isn’t failure, he explained.
“Our society suggests weight loss is easy and just a matter of discipline, but successful weight management requires incremental changes—mental, physical and emotional. An unsupported diet or exercise plan is going to fail in most cases, and it’s not the patient’s fault,” Dr. Bidey said.
It can take one to two years before the body adjusts to a new, lower body weight without trying to regain its reserves—as evolution has conditioned our bodies to do. Helping patients understand their body’s biochemical desire to eat can alleviate guilt they experience and support change.
Simple, structured steps
He is optimistic that three changes could set most patients on a positive path forward.
- Work with your physician to develop a personalized weight loss plan that integrates activity but balances dietary needs.
- Reduce the empty calories popular in the standard American diet—in particular, soda and processed foods.
- Increase the time spent in the pursuit of emotional health, such as walking, dancing or yoga, and consult a mental health professional if facing stress.
“We are witnessing a significant shift in the way we treat comorbidities such as excess weight that, to some degree, have been left to the patient or to companies who provide exercise and diet programs,” says Dr. Bidey. “But physicians are the ultimate care quarterbacks, and can be an effective resource for successful, long term weight loss.”