19 July 2011

Obesity: not a simple issue

Obesity is not a simple issue. Why do people gain weight? Why do they succeed or fail when they try to lose it? Many factors play a role, says DietDoc.

Obesity is not a simple issue. Why do people gain weight? Why do they succeed or fail when they try to lose it?

The psychobiological core
Dr Wenhold pointed out that every human being has a basic psychobiological core consisting of a wide spectrum of factors such as genetic makeup, physiology, susceptibility to diseases, exercise tolerance (some individuals can just not do as much exercise as others), gender, hormones, age, state of health, need for pleasure, need to eat (this is one of the most basic human needs that drives us to seek out food and satisfy hunger), and the individual's self-identification (our attempts to define who we are and what we should be).

  • Attitudes - some people regard food as essential, but uninteresting, while to others food is the be-all and end-all of their lives
  • Faith - food is often an important aspect of faith with certain foods being regarded as 'holy' and others as 'unclean'
  • Self-efficacy - some individuals just have greater control of their lives than others. Those who are in control can embark on diets and exercise programmes and will probably succeed, while people who are not in control of their lives will fail
  • Perceptions of health - many obese people regard themselves as healthy and do not believe that their overweight can cause serious complications such as diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Perceptions of the truth of information - this is a serious problem when it comes to losing weight. If you are gullible and believe everything you hear about fad diets, magic slimming pills and instant solutions, you will be a target for every advertisement that every set out to part you and your money, without delivering the goods.

  • Individual or community orientations - some communities revere obesity and regard fat individuals as healthy, free of Aids and beautiful, as is often the case in African societies. Trying to persuade a member of such a community that weight loss is essential, is a losing battle.
  • Speed of gratification - modern people are addicted to 'instant fixes'. Whereas our ancestors were patient and prepared to work and wait for result or changes, modern man expects solutions in a wink and many people are not prepared to take time and care to lose weight. I have endless comments from Readers who bewail the fact that they have been on a diet for a week 'and not lost a kg!'. Weight loss takes time and effort, two concepts that are at odds with the modern need for instant gratification.
  • Perceived benefits - this value can make any weight loss programme fail, because it is practically impossible to motivate someone to lose weight if they cannot perceive the benefit of doing so. If you are not deeply convinced that losing weight will improve your health and lifestyle, then don't even start a diet, it will be doomed to failure.
  • Locus of control - the question of who controls your life is also important. Do you feel that you are in control of your life and all its aspects, or do you feel like a helpless baby torn in different directions by forces beyond your control? If you belong to the latter group, you will also fail when trying to lose weight, because it take control to stick to a diet and an exercise programme.
  • Aspirations - these values define your goals. If you are determined to reach your gaol of weight loss then chances are you will get there with flying colours, but if you don't even have any aspirations and just vaguely think you should be doing something about being obese because someone else thinks so, your chances are poor.


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