One of the hurdles in tackling obesity as a health issue is that it is shrouded in myths and misconceptions.
To make things worse, the mass media, the public, and sometimes the government spread misinformation about obesity.
The latest fad to join the obesity myth is the “body positivity” movement. According to the proponents of this movement, individuals who are morbidly obese (BMI > 25 kg/m2) must be celebrated and accepted as they are instead of encouraging them to lose weight.
We have said this before and will say it again. Being obese is dangerous for your health. It is not a fashion trend. Do not get distracted by such movements.
Here are some common myths about obesity and what the actual scientific facts are.
#1 I am obese because of my genetics
Genetics most certainly plays a role in increasing risk for obesity. However, it is not a direct cause.
Fact: Obesity is usually multifactorial
There is no one direct cause of obesity. Stress, sleep health, hormones, chronic pain, undetected medical conditions, and other environmental and economical conditions could also contribute to obesity.
Moreover, even if obesity in an individual develops because of genetics, steps can be taken to resolve or reverse the condition.
#2 I need to start losing weight dramatically
Do not get intimidated by the “before-after” images used by health studios and gyms. Weight loss is a slow process and holistic process.
Looking for dramatic results and setting unrealistic goals usually backfires. An article by Mayo Clinic suggests process goals instead of outcome goals.
Here is an example of a process goal and an outcome goal:
Outcome goal = Losing 0.5 to 1 kg per week
Process goal = Walking briskly for 30-60 min per day
Process goals help you focus on your habits instead of being fixed on the results.
#3 I need to burn more calories than I eat, to lose weight
Individuals tend to fall for the “calories in versus calories out” formula. In other words, burning more calories than that you have consumed will help you lose weight.
Please remember: the human body is a living vital system, not a robot! If biological processes were that simple, we would not be one of the most complex and successful species on the planet.
The macronutrients and minerals in food have multiple effects in the body. They take part in thousands of signalling pathways that are involved in different metabolic reactions.
A better approach to food would be to focus on eating a balanced diet everyday. To fulfill additional needs getting a basic blood biomarker profile done could help.
#4 Losing weight equals knocking off those extra kilos
Technically, losing weight is measured by how much the scale moves left. However, studies have shown that keeping that as the sole metric in your weight loss program could be unproductive and lead to frustration.
Fact: Aim to be more healthy. Losing weight is only one part of that.
Any effort to lose weight is better off prioritising health over the reading on a weighing scale. Studies have suggested using other weight neutral metrics like blood pressure, diet quality, and physical activity in a weight management program.
#5 I am obese because I don't have access to healthy food
More than a myth, this is probably just an excuse.
A food can be made healthy, or junk by personal preference. People need to be educated about food and diets. Knowledge about macronutrients, minerals, spices, and artificial flavors are very important in designing a diet.
A 2018 study noted that 61.8% of people who shop do not make their purchase decisions based on nutritional information on the label of food products.
Fact: Lack of education about healthy food plays a bigger role in weight gain.
Identifying and cutting down on unhealthy food, coupled with increased intake of fresh food promotes healthy weight loss.
Special diets, like the ketogenic diet, are under promoted India. The ketogenic diet is a very good way to address both overall health and losing weight.
The takeaway is that obesity is a complex, yet preventable health condition. Staying healthy should be the goal of any health exercise. Read extensively, ask questions, and never give up on your quest to become and stay healthy.