The battle of the bulge: The struggle is real

The economic impact of obesity looms large, casting a shadow over both individual well-being and national prosperity. Beyond the personal struggles and societal pressures surrounding weight management, the financial ramifications of obesity ripple through health care systems, labor markets, and various sectors of the economy. In the United States alone, the annual health care costs attributed to obesity-related conditions soar into the hundreds of billions of dollars, placing a significant burden on both public and private health care expenditures. Furthermore, the productivity losses stemming from obesity-related absenteeism and decreased workplace efficiency further exacerbate its economic toll, affecting businesses and industries on a profound scale.

The recent frank vitriol and antagonism against Oprah Winfrey and her candid admission of using a weight loss drug tell us a lot about our society when it comes to the issue of weight. Despite advancements in understanding obesity as a complex medical condition, pervasive stereotypes often cloud discussions about weight management, perpetuating harmful attitudes and hindering effective solutions. Within this charged atmosphere, individuals grappling with weight-related challenges may find themselves navigating a landscape fraught with judgment and criticism, further complicating their journey towards healthier living.

As those who have struggled with their weight can attest—sometimes it can feel like “you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” It is important to highlight the term “struggled” so you can understand my point of view. One dictionary definition of struggle is to “strive to achieve or attain something in the face of difficulty or resistance.” You see, struggle requires active participation, not passivity, and hoping for a change without doing the work. According to research, most people are not “struggling” with their weight. According to a study from the CDC, only 28% of Americans are meeting the physical guidelines for activity. The average person is sedentary, and the numbers are particularly shocking for school-aged children, who, at one point in our history, were active.

So, to all of you who are “struggling” with your weight while exercising, eating right, and making other healthy lifestyle choices—then perhaps weight-lowering drugs might be a great tool. I would say ignore the haters and those who rage—saying you are “cheaters and are somewhat bad for using a tool” in your struggle to lose weight. I think it’s safe to say that some of those making these negative comments haven’t chosen to struggle consistently.

How about those who have faithfully counted their carbs and caloric intake while getting plenty of exercise—going to the gym, hiring a trainer, and doing everything they possibly can—but are frustrated with limited results? In some cases, I’ve seen these patients steadily gain weight despite following conventional wisdom, yet they struggle with their weight.

From atomic habits, “true behavior changes in an identity change.” In order for a person to make a sustained change, they must embrace a total mindset shift. Changes require action—and sustained action. However, despite this, many individuals are unsuccessful. Are weight-lowering drugs a crutch for someone who is struggling and putting in the work? My answer is a resounding no. It’s no different than reproductive technologies for a couple who, despite best efforts, are unable to naturally conceive a child. How about the person who needs glasses as they struggle with their astigmatism or near-sightedness? Are the millions of people who wear glasses or contacts or choose to get corrective vision procedures any less than those who do not require corrective lenses?

With any therapy, there are risks and benefits, and it’s between the individual and their health care provider to have honest discussions about these risks and benefits. With any treatment, a holistic approach must be taken to achieve sustainable outcomes. There isn’t a “magic bullet” to solve all of one’s problems.

To those of you who are “struggling” to lose weight because you want to look and feel better about yourself; because you want to lower your risk of weight-related health complications, like diabetes, certain cancers, hypertension, and the list goes on—I commend you.

Tomi Mitchell, a family physician and founder of Dr. Tomi Mitchell Holistic Wellness Strategies, is not only a distinguished international keynote speaker but also a passionate advocate for mental health and physician’s well-being, hosting her podcast, The Mental Health & Wellness Show. With over a decade of experience in presenting, public speaking, and training, she excels in creating meaningful connections with her audience. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn and book a discovery call.


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