The obesity pandemic: What are we missing in weight management?
Updated: Aug 27, 2020
Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the biggest struggles that is facing humankind. Diet and exercise programs have failed to achieve long term results, even when medications are added. Even surgery is associated with relapse, not to mention the complications.
Are you wondering what makes losing weight so difficult?
Obesity is a very complicated chronic disease! We know now that our mind is responsible for a big part of it! Feeling hungry, craving ice-cream, hearing chocolate calling our name, are all controlled by our mesolimbic system hat is seated inside our brain. Our beautiful brain! How many times our patients consciously decided to change their eating habits?
They know why their cholesterol, diabetes, and blood pressure is out of control. They heard the same symphony more times than they can count! They would most often answer something like Yes, yes, "I know, I need to make better food choices and exercise." We all know this patient that decided 100 times this year to eat a healthy diet, meal prep and then found himself looking at an empty plate of pasta with extra cheese, not really sure who ate it. Many will describe the storm of guilt and shame that they experience after that big meal. Few might open up to you and describe feeling hopeless, helpless, sad, and disappointed.
They are doing the exact opposite of what they consciously decided. They want to lose weight, but they can't stop eating! You might be thinking that they are hunted by a mysterious force that feeds them against their will. Sounds familiar? Well, it could be partially true...
Many people in this world suffer from obesity and go through these mismatches between their conscious decisions and subconscious behaviors.
"The first step to help our patients take control over their cravings is to help them understand that they are not alone, and there are some reason that can explain these struggles."
Some functions in our body are not conscious and can never be controlled with our conscious mind; for example, our heart rate, blood pressure, and gut movement. Other functions are unconscious but can be controlled by our conscious mind. We breathe automatically, unconsciously, but during meditation, for example, we become aware of our breathing, and we can control every breath we take. Our feelings, however, are not conscious but a little harder to control than breathing.
Hunger and cravings are automatic feelings too. But those are harder to control by our conscious mind. Hunger is one of those feelings that kept our ancestors alive!
Emotions that are linked to survival are harder to manage!
You might be asking your self, "What does our ancestors have to do with this?" The short answer is; we operate by their code! Their blueprint of survival is deeply wired in our subconscious mind.
The reason 40% of humans in the world are obese "my opinion" is that they are operating with an outdated subconscious blueprint and a messed up adipostat set-point.
While The adipostat set-point problem is complicated (we will talk about that later), the blueprint story is simple. Our ancestors did not have constant access to food. Starvation threatened our survival back in the days. So now our fantastic brain that is wired to protect us from what once killed us, will panic when we are hungry! It will give us pleasure when we eat sugar. Interestingly our mind will always remind us, when we eat fat and carbs combined, that this was once upon a time only felt when we were loved, protected infants getting breast milk.
No wonder that immediately after a breakup, an experience of loss, anxiety, or fear, we feel commanded to finish the box of ice cream or this creamy strawberry cheesecake in the fridge!
Research shows that patient who suffer from obesity also suffers from anxiety and depression. So why don't we stop torturing them with information about healthy diets they already know and fix the root cause of the problem?
Long story short. Till now, we have lost the fight with obesity. Diet and exercise, medication, and surgeries are associated with a high relapse rate. The data from studies are telling us loudly that we are missing an essential piece of the puzzle. The patients who suffer from obesity have an outdated blueprint that needs to be updated and an intoxicated system that needs to be cleaned. The mesolimbic pathway is an essential player in the ingestion behavior, and not addressing it during weight loss therapy will make long term success very difficult.