When dieting doesn't work
If dieting has never worked for you then you're not alone. Dieting often proves ineffective in maintaining long-term weight loss over a lifetime. Many people living with obesity have tried various dieting and exercise regimes only to find the results are temporary and unsustainable. The problem of 'yo-yo' or 'crash dieting' is common and widespread, having little to no impact on obesity-related health conditions since the brain's weight regulation system is also effected by a range of complex social factors. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight is not simply a matter of willpower but of neuroscience, hormones and genes.
Why we gain weight and become obese
The reason why we become obese is easier to explain than why we can't lose significant weight through diet and exercise alone. Obesity is simply a result of eating more calories than our bodies need. We need energy and calories to maintain a normal metabolism which gets burned up by physical activity. However, when we don't get enough exercise weight gain is unavoidable and eventually results in obesity.
Why we eat too much in the first place
In modern society, there are various factors (psychological, social and economic) which predispose us to eating too many calories and not getting enough exercise. Foods which are high in calories generally taste nice. The fact the brain releases pleasure hormones when we eat yummy food makes it hard to stop.
We turn to food when we are lonely, bored, happy or depressed. Foods which are high in sugar and fat are particularly addictive making us prone to becoming physiologically and emotionally dependent on these foods for comfort. This addictive factor in food is felt by the cravings we experience for our favourite treats and meals.
The UK food advertising industry is the biggest in Europe. Over £21 billion is spent on advertising in the UK each year in an effort to make us want luxury food brands which contributes to the nationwide epidemic of obesity. The long hours we spend at work feuls the market for fast food and convenience shopping. Those with sedentary lifestyles struggle to fit in the exercise needed to burn off excess calories. In a culture where social occasions nearly always involve eating, it can be hard to avoid eating too much.
Medical factors in weight gain
In some cases people are found to have a higher propensity to store fat when faced with the same dietary options as other people. Health conditions such as hypothyroidism, Cushing's Syndrome and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome can lower the rate of metabolism and increase the chances of weight gain, making it harder to lose excess body weight. Some medications can also cause weight gain.
The impact of obesity on health and wellbeing
The UK has the highest level of obesity in Europe. Obesity is a potentially fatal disease which can cut life expectancy by up to a decade. The disease is the biggest cause of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity-related cancers.
The risk factors for heart disease are caused by high cholesterol and triglycerides. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a leading cause of stroke, kidney disease and heart disease. Other health conditions related to obesity are sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, joint pain and asthma.
Obesity does not only cause poor physical health but has serious consequences for mental health too. Being physically unfit leads to problems of social exclusion, body dysmorphic disorder and clinical depression. Having to sit out of activities with family and friends, missing work due to illness and not be able to dress in the clothes you want to wear causes feelings of embarrassment, shame, anxiety and depression.
Please seek and follow the specific guidelines from your bariatric team. Guidelines vary for individual patient needs and surgeries.