I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Novo Nordisk Inc. to write about the realities of obesity as a chronic disease. All opinions are my own.
Obesity is something that I’ve been aware of since I was eleven years old. I went on my first diet at age 18, to look “good “for my senior prom. It set off a cycle of calorie restricting and weight yo-yo-ing. Unhealthy and healthy actions. I’ve struggled with this. Then I turned 40 and suddenly it got so much harder. And now I just turned 50 and I’m still struggling with my weight. Because obesity is a chronic disease, I decided to team up with Med-IQ to help generate awareness around obesity and how to speak up for yourself and advocate for how to get treatment with your doctors. If you’re not aware, Med-IQ is an accredited medical education company that provides an exceptional educational experience for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals. Just remember, as someone who has obesity – you have a right to be heard by your healthcare team and they should welcome you talking to them about your weight management goals and needs. We recently had an amazing online chat with Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, an Obesity Medicine Physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Director of Diversity, Nutrition Obesity Research Center at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA. This chat was life changing for me because it totally flipped my views on medication and surgery for obesity. Read on for more information and don’t miss the opportunity to enter to win one of $100 visa gift cards (6 winners) for filling out Med-IQ’s quick survey (find out more below).
Is Losing Weight as Simple as Calories in Vs Calories Out or Having Willpower?
I guess I always looked at losing weight as something I was failing at, but after a recent online chat with Dr. Fatima Stanford, my view has changed. Is it really my fault if I can’t lose weight? Is it as simple as calories in versus calories out to lose weight? Is it wrong if I don’t have willpower? Dr. Stanford said that this way of thinking is a “fallacy” and can get in the way of participating in a healthy weight loss program. I really liked her view on saying “our brains control our weight, that it is *NOT* about willpower, and that different substances in different parts of the body have an effect on our appetite. In fact, there are factors both *inside* and *outside* a person that can lead to weight gain.” And that lead me to this – how can we as patients, be an advocate for ourselves?
As patients, we should talk to our healthcare providers about what our weight management goals and needs are – without judgement. We should also be comfortable with discussing effective plans with our healthcare providers for long-term weight management. And while diet and exercise plans need to be personalized for each person (ie. what works for you may not work for me), Dr. Stanford clarifies that “exercise, for most people, eventually leads to “weight maintenance NOT weight loss”.
Obesity is a chronic disease and it’s a lot more than JUST sticking to a calorie restrictive way of eating or a specific way of eating. I’ve taken weight loss drugs (2 times in my life), but each time when I went off them, I gained the weight back. A doctor had brought up weight loss surgery but I had said no. After talking with Dr. Stanford (who is amazing, by the way), I am actually thinking about Bariatic surgery – or at least discussing IF it’s an option for me. And if it’s not, maybe trying weight loss medication in conjunction or on it’s own.
Weight loss surgery or taking medication to help manage weight is NOT giving up, there shouldn’t be a stigma for whatever a person decides with their healthcare team. There are other options to diet and exercise that should be considered that may help a patient meet their weight management needs and goals.
Is taking medication or medical intervention a weakness?
Dr. Stanford says that weight loss success means maintaining a weight loss over 10-20 years. She encouraged patients to take the long view with weight loss and consider maintenance over time. Dr. Stanford explained that “the challenge many people face with respect to medication as treatment is that they do not believe obesity is a disease; it is critical to accept that obesity is a disease, and medication as treatment is a natural part of disease mitigation. If someone had type 2 diabetes or hypertension, they would take medication for those diseases, right?
Surgery’s a Last Resort, Right?
Well, no, that’s not the way to look at this. Dr. Stanford thinks that weight bias in medicine in terms of perpetuating this notion that patients have failed weight loss efforts and, therefore, surgery is viewed as a “last resort”. She instead explains that surgery is just one tool in a tool bag we have to treat patients with moderate to severe obesity. Think about this – we have surgeries because it helps to fix a problem within our bodies.
So, shouldn’t we speak to our healthcare teams about all the options that would work for us?
Don’t we owe that to ourselves? I plan to do a lot more research on my own, to figure out the best strategy for me.
If you miss it, you can view the recorded version of the Instagram Round Robin sessions with mine and other influencers’ interviews with Dr. Stanford (which will be posted on Med-IQ’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MedIQCME after June 21).
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- PBS NOVA program The Truth About Fat (April 2020) https://www.pbs.org/video/the-truth-about-fat-xnqm4i/
- Dr. Stanford’s lecture Obesity: It’s More Complex than You Think (April 2018) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aoh7tYBjeGc
- Dr. Stanford’s book: Facing Overweight and Obesity– https://www.amazon.com/Facing-Overweight-Obesity-Complete-Children/dp/0999148354/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2FWGQ3T4LCIC7&dchild=1&keywords=facing+overweight+and+obesity&qid=1620770799&sprefix=facing+o%2Caps%2C152&sr=8-1
Med-IQ Survey (Plus you could win a gift card for completing the survey)
Med-IQ is conducting an anonymous survey and your responses to these survey questions will provide Med-IQ with important information about the challenges you have experienced when trying to lose and maintain weight and any strategies that you have used, which will help us develop future educational initiatives.
The survey will take less than 15 minutes to complete . Survey responses are shared only in aggregate (no private info given out).
Once you’ve completed the survey, you will have the option of providing your email address to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 6 $100 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, your email address will be used to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize.