An Ounce of Prevention Is Sorely Needed

Tom and I watched a Dateline show the other night that tracked six overweight people of the same age who tried various means of losing weight. They all succeeded, though they did not all meet their target weight by the end of the experiment. At the end, the show’s host congratulated them and asked how many of them expected to keep the weight off. Only one did not raise his hand. He said he had just wanted to try to meet the challenge of losing weight by the deadline and had not thought further than that.
I wondered to what extent their weight loss efforts would have succeeded if they had not been followed by the cameras during the process. It will be interesting to see, next year, if the weight has crept back up on some people.
This made me think again about how hard it is to lose weight and how much harder still to maintain a new, healthy weight for a lifetime. It seems to my unscientific view to be almost as hard as curing cancer. How many people are diagnosed and successfully treated for cancer, only to have it eventually return and kill them? How many people lose a significant amount of weight and eventually gain it back? Statistics for both of these tend to be stated in terms of five-year or ten-year success, but really, if it’s YOUR life, you want the disease or the weight gone for good. Five years might as well be five minutes.
It seems to me that along with trying to help overweight people lose weight and keep it off, it is at least as important for science and social institutions to develop more effective prevention. The best way to be at a healthy weight is never to have gone very far above it. It is so much easier to stay thin than to get thin. If you’ve gained weight as an adult, think back to when you were a slim teenager. Doesn’t it seem that if you had only done a few things differently along the way, you would never have gained the extra weight? I know it seemed that way to me. Now I’m very concerned with maintaining my weight and just as I wasn’t sure how to lose—and it took me years to figure out—I’m not sure how to maintain.
We need classes in grade school, high school, college, and even refresher courses in the workplace to teach us, and remind us, how to keep our weight down. In school, these could be conveniently scheduled, required classes. In the workplace, they could be similar to a blood drive, a CPR class, or a safe-driving refresher in taking little time, but they should be required.
Imagine if as a high school or college student, you had been alerted to the approaching dangers of the shrinking adult metabolism. I would have loved to be told the facts about how I could, as a teen, eat everything I wanted and stay skinny, and how as a young adult to start trimming the calories and upping the exercise. These wouldn’t have to be drastic changes at that point in life. Small changes then, if we knew how to make them, could save so much anguish later in life. When I started gaining slowly at age 25, I didn’t know it was the start of a trend that would become a problem. If I thought about it, I hadn’t the slightest idea how to stop it. If someone had presented a list of painless ways to cut calories and add exercise, it would have given me some valuable tools.
P.S. Here’s a site with loads of calorie, exercise, and weight loss information and calculators. I found it via DB’s Medical Rants (in the linked article).

3 thoughts on “An Ounce of Prevention Is Sorely Needed”

  1. You are SO right!! Every January we are bombarded with ads and programs on tv about how to lose it but we never see programs about how to avoid it in the first place. Education is the key to prevention, you’ve nailed it!

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