A Short Story on Weight Loss Success: Shaping a Destiny
Six months ago, I was contacted by LW, a 25 year old mother who was interested in doing something about her weight. Having been overweight all of her life, she had never had a single successful experience in weight loss. She was obese and wanted guidance to get into a size 12. While she had no evidence of metabolic syndrome, she felt sad, overwhelmed, and was very fearful about her and her family’s future. She was simply waiting for the diabetes and disability to come her way.
I started with a question, “why do you think are you overweight?” While this may seem simplistic, funny even, many people can identify 2-3 self-defeating behaviors that can become the focal point for behavioral change. Interestingly, I have never had a patient respond by saying ‘I eat too much’! Patients often report poor meal planning, little to no thought into what they were eating, far too little protein or nighttime bingeing.
Next, I ask them to describe a typical day of eating, just a 2 minute description from an aerial view. This simple question can quickly inform a non-nutritionist on what might be problematic eating behavior. In LWs case, the first revelation came when she realized she was addicted to sugar; she was powerless once she started ingesting it. That knowledge propelled her immediately to purge her kitchen of all processed sugary foods and to make very different food choices: the only way around an addiction is to not expose oneself to it. There is no remedy in cutting down.
Just as the literature reports, sugar addiction looks similar to drug or alcohol withdrawal, and after a short period of abstinence, her sugar cravings vanished. Once she entered the land of choice, in which she now had power over the food she was eating, she began practicing meditation in which she became increasingly aware of her feelings, wants, and desires. After 6 months of twice-a-month coaching, she dropped 70 pounds and she reports feeling transformed from the inside out. She has more self-compassion, and is no longer beholden to toxic food, but rather, to her own soul.
So when talking with patients about obesity, it is important to assess eating patterns to determine an underlying addiction evidenced by powerlessness. No amount of exercise, willpower or cutting down will address the root problem of food addiction. LW’s experience underscores these 2 truths I have learned about weight loss coaching:
1. If you want to lose weight, don’t go on a diet
2. Successful long-term weight loss is rarely about food. It’s about having a healthy relationship with it. Everything, and I do mean everything hinges on this.
LW’s success included eating real food from a grocery store, not feeling hungry, and no potions, patches or pills. She significantly increased her intake of protein and vegetables.
LW Before, and After:
I highly recommend the outstanding documentary FED UP in theaters now about sugar and its role in the US obesity epidemic. It is very powerful.
To assess for Food Addiction, see the brief Yale food addiction 9 question survey
Dr. Eileen T. O’Grady is a certified nurse practitioner and wellness coach who specializes in getting people unstuck from lifestyles that do not support wellness. She can be contacted at www.eileenogrady.net