What We Are Doing is NOT Working

We have to admit what we are doing is not working.”

I recently heard that statement at a symposium on eating disorders from Emmett Bishop, MD and a specialist who has been treating and working in the field for over 25 years.

He is correct. Both the numbers and personal stories confirm it.

America spends 78 billion dollars every year on the ‘diet’ industry yet eight million men and women struggle with eating disorders. Of those, 10-25% with Anorexia Nervosa will die as a direct result of their struggle. 19% of college-aged women are bulimic and 35% of the US population is obese.

What is even more alarming, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention, not one state has a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty-six states have a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia) have a prevalence of 30% or more.

So, try this: look around you right now. Look at faces, bodies, young and old. While not all thin or fat people have disordered eating or are even unhealthy, the fact is more and more of us are in a troubled place. And, it’s been that way for years and years.

More children and adults are fat. More people are obese even though there are more products, more programs, more information, and more education to help combat this. More people continue to die as a result of their chosen lifestyle.

How do we end this trend? How do we get more of you to change?

This is an interesting discussion topic in light of that fact what we are doing is NOT working. All that money spent ‘dieting’ and on ‘diet’ products and programs has not reversed the trend of eating disorders, body image problems, and obesity.

Many experts including President Obama believe if we solve the obesity issue in this country we solve the health care problem. I tend to agree based on what I see and what I’ve witnessed in my office during the past two decades. And, if we don't change the trend, this country is in trouble. In fact, if this nation continues on this trajectory, then everyone will be overweight or obese in a few generations.

The First Lady has dedicated a large portion of her time to obesity prevention and education. Her Let’s Move campaign has garnered attention yet has not moved the statistics in the direction we need.

The highly acclaimed HBO’s Weight of the Nation documentary series and interactive website provides incredible tools for communities, companies, and school districts to educate and change their ways. I highly recommend it to groups to facilitate knowledge that can be applied to healthier and more fit lifestyles.

Another attempt at educating people about the consequences of obesity is drawing fire since it came out in 2012. The controversy centers on an anti-obesity campaign in Georgia. Some see this campaign ‘shaming’ kids and adults about their weight and the resulting struggles. The visuals are of young overweight and obese kids with firm messages about the negative mental and physical impact of carrying too much fat.

Reality is, however, sometimes 'shame' is really 'conviction' and there is a need to understand the difference. And, I will grant you, sometimes kids do not have the emotional or cognitive development to handle such messages and know the difference.

Maybe you cave at the slightest hint of 'shame'. Yes, adults, it hurts. Yes, you hate your body. Think logically, however, and see it as conviction: a natural consequence of doing wrong. If you overeat and do not work out, you will more than likely be fat and out of shape.

What about medical issues? Ok, I am not talking to you. What about genetics? Well, I for one, am not gifted in the naturally skinny department. So do not complain. All that gets you is a negative attitude. For instance, I know I have to work three times as hard just to maintain my healthy and fit body while someone else can do about half as much as I do and be golden.

Good news is you can do something about it whether you struggle with obesity or you fear being fat to the point of starving to death. Maybe your 'idols' of pleasure, comfort, control, etc need to be addressed. Accept your wrongdoing. Make choices to change. Then take action even if you feel anxious, depressed or embarrassed about it.

Face it, ‘diets’ do not work! You may temporarily lose the weight but if you are not committed to a lifestyle of doing that ‘diet’ the rest of your life, well, expect the weight to come back on and more.

Likewise, coddling and suggesting you will struggle with this for the rest of your life like a disease or mental disorder also is of no help or hope. Eating disorders are lifestyle choices influenced by a variety of things.

Hence, I will say it again: realize the solution to most weight and body image issues lies in three LIFESTYLE areas: right belief system, eating clean no matter where, with whom, or what you are doing, and the hard work or exercise.

Kip Rodgers, LPC-S

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