Originally Posted by sontaikle
We pour over statistics here, trying to find out what the most successful maintainers and losers have in common. I wonder if we should evaluate them mentally instead.
I have mixed feelings about the role of "mental" factors in weight loss. I used to believe that weight loss was almost entirely a "head game." In fact, I pursued psychology as a career choice (getting a bachelor's and master's degree in behavioral and developmental psychology respectively) BECAUSE I was hoping to figure myself out. I also saw counseling psychologists at various points in my life.
Counseling helped me a lot in other aspects of my life, but really had very little effect on my eating/weight. I just assumed my problems had to be "deeper."
When I first encountered "fat acceptance" doctrine, which argued that dieting is making people fat and progressively fatter, I wasn't ready to give up dieting, but I did decide to try birth control (out of desperation for symptoms of severe pms/pmdd. I had been avoiding bc for pms treatment since my teens because of the possibility of weight gain).
Instead of gaining weight, I found that monthly "rabid hunger" was greatly diminished.
I also eventually gave up dieting as well, and my weight stabilized.
I wondered if I had never dieted, would I have been a bit chunky but never obese?
I don't know, but I was TERRIFIED of dieting again because dieting in the past had always resulted eventually in weight gain. In a very real sense, I "dieted" my way to nearly 400 lbs.
When I incidently lost 20 lbs after treatment for sleep apnea (which my doctors told me to expect but I thought they were nuts as I'd never accidentally lost weight in my life), I wanted more, but I couldn't go back to traditional dieting.
I had to experiment to find a "not dieting" way to lose weight, and it took two years to find a way to acheive more weight loss without "trying" to lose weight.
I settled upon a very gradual method of change that focused on "not gaining" rather than on losing, and while I was at this business of not gaining, I would try to lose "just one more pound." I banished guilt and shame and focused on successes no matter how small.
Yes I had to do some mental wrangling to succeed, but so much of the difference has been physiological that I think the physiological is often overlooked.
I have fibromyalgia and any drastic change in just about any aspect of my life - whether it be the weather, pollen levels my sleep, emotional state, activity level, exposure to illness, my food intake... any change at all tends to trigger flares of pain and fatigue. So I HAD to make gradual changes.
I wonder though if even the healthiest bodies resist change. My human anatomy and physiology experience is rather weak, despite the college coursework I had to take, but I know that there are many processes in the body work to maintain homeostasis. I know that from a psychological viewpoint, behavior change is difficult - even small to moderate behavior changes are often difficult to initiate and harder to maintain.
I think we've developed a cultural mythos that fat people are defective or broken in some way (even perhaps mentally ill).
I think the answer is much simpler than that, and referred to in the OP. Being hungrier than "average" had survival value for millions of years and then suddenly, in the last few decades the rules have changed. Food has become unnaturally abundant, but population isn't growing as fast as the food supply, because of widespread birth control use. In a natural world, overpopulation occurs long before widespread obesity could ever become a problem. Obesity also was self-corecting because you it made it more difficult for you to find food and to avoid becoming food. So you either lost weight or you were taken out of the gene pool by being eaten.
We've also changed the composition of our diet, eating more and more foods that mess with the insulin response and other factors involved in hunger.
In the book, The End of Overeating, David Kessler talks about "conditioned hypereating," that all mammals tend to overeat when presented with the flavor combination of sweet/salty/fatty. Flavors that were once only associated with celebration foods, and now have become every day foods. And ironically, animals that are under stress respond even more strongly to the flavor combination.
Even this there may be a survival trait we have evolved. In a natural world, carbohydrates, fats, and salt are generally very rare commodities. We may have evolved a "stock up" instinct because our bodies recognize these foods as nutritional goldmines (at least they would be, if we lived in a natural world, where these substances were rare).
Unfortunately, there's a cultural bias against research that is aimed at looking for non-psychological causes of obesity. Every research study that looks for physiological and genetic causes faces intense scrutiny and public outrage for "providing excuses" for people being overweight. We don't want to believe that the causes are physiological, because then we couldn't blame the fat person for being fat or for having difficulty losing weight.
I think we want to blame obese people much more than we want them helped. We'd rather obese people stay fat so we can hate them for being weak.
In my experience, the worst ridicule I ever received was for doing things not expected of a fat person. It wasn't when I was stuffing my face that I got the worst verbal abuse - it was when I was breaking the stereotype trying to do something about my weight. When I was riding a bike or swimming or dancing or eating carefully.
I suspect that the social and physiological aspects are stronger than the "mental" components (especially since five decades worth of research trying to find and identify "mental problems" among the obese, has largely yielded very few differences. Depression is about the only mental issue that is found in higher incidences among the obese - and researchers don't know whether the depression causes the obesity or the obesity causes the depression - proabably a bit of both).
I'm not diminishing the role of mental factors. In fact, there still is a large "mind game" component, I just don't think that obese folks have any more mental problems than non-obese folks (except the ones caused and contributed to by the obesity itself).
I think an overabundance of nutritionally empty food, and an inactive lifestyle is killing many people - and not just the fat ones. Autoimmune and metabolic diseases are reaching epidemic proportions and among normal weight persons as well as the obese.
In some ways, the thin folks may be at the disadvantage, because they (and even their doctors) may assume that they're healthier than they are, because they "look ok.
To some degree, obesity may be the red herring. We're only focusing on the weight, not the underlying problem (affecting thin and fat alike) of inactivity and a food supply in which poor quality foods are overly abundant and affordable, and healthy foods are the most expensive.
And traditionally, we haven't cared HOW people attempted to lose weight. To some degree that's still true. Instead of losing weight to improve their health (and therefore choosing healthy ways to do it) we have encouraged people to lose the weight by any method (even dangerous ones). In fact, speed of weight loss is often the only factor by which weight loss methods are evaluated. We literally don't care if the weight loss method kills us sooner, as long as it gets the weight off by swimsuit season.
There are a lot of problems with our social attitudes toward weight, and weight loss, and I think they overshadow the "mental problems" of individuals.
But changeing society is a lot harder than changing an individual. And humans don't like "swimming upstream" so in general, we'd rather consider ourselves broken than society.