Editor’s note: Weighed Down is an Oklahoma Gazette series about health, weight loss, treatments, behaviors and the paths and challenges of sustainable success. Find the full six-part series at okgazette.com.
Since mid-January, Oklahoma Gazette’s “Weighed down” series has focused on what has become a national obsession: our weight. We lose it or hope to lose it, sometimes finding success and shedding pounds only to put them back on.
The series examined those who struggle with eating disorders — roughly 10 percent of the population — who can be triggered into life-threatening disorders like anorexia nervosa with the bombardment of advice on weight and exercise.
Some people go to great lengths in their efforts to lose weight. Within this spectrum of conversation, experts discussed national health guidelines arguing our increasing rates of obesity and the consequent health conditions that go along with being overweight, demand we change, get to the bottom of, or figure out what exactly is behind this massive shift of body style in our country.
The data shows us that 70 percent of the population is overweight and one-third of them weigh more than 100 pounds past what’s considered healthy; diabetes and high blood pressure rates are skyrocketing; joint damage is increasingly diagnosed; and overall quality of life declines as obesity grows more prevalent.
The point in all of this discussion is that this problem cannot be handled alone, not one person can fix it for everyone and there is not one giant error the majority of people are committing.
The solution lies in a general understanding of nutrition, how to cook, how to get help and how to learn what’s a healthy weight for the individual, and key to all of it is realizing that healthy living requires a lifetime commitment. It’s not a momentary illness any more than overdrawing a bank account is a reasonable solution to managing your household budget. Success in money management, like in weight management, requires a certain commitment to and understanding of how the system works. Beyond that, it requires professional guidance.
“So many of our clients have lost 30 to 50 pounds multiple times. Losing and keeping it off is so difficult if the mentality at work here is dieting,” said Lori Manning, a registered dietitian with Mercy Outpatient Nutrition in Oklahoma City. “People get on a plan, reach a goal and then quit. Long-term health and weight management is about creating a life.”
This often means incorporating fitness routines and examining the emotional and physical benefits of movement.
“We talk about emotional eating, what kinds of issues trigger us to eat when we aren’t happy, aren’t hungry and maybe past full,” Manning said.
In January, Manning addressed these issues and more as she discussed frustrations people face in managing their weight, those who become obsessed with dieting and even family members of someone in denial of their weight problem who urged loved ones to see a dietitian.
Not associated with any particular food or financial remuneration from a particular product line, the American Dietetics Association is a good resource. Dietitians are committed to helping people understand food. They are nutrition experts. And their information on food choices and what’s right for individual patients comes from evidence-based research.
While not very interesting, particularly if you’re looking for a new, fast way to achieve some sort of weight loss success that has eluded you before, the basic guidelines for nutrition today have changed, but not dramatically. The ADA says nutrition is key to health, and while there might be some need in early meetings with a dietitian or family physician to reduce calories and increase energy expenditure, healthy living boils down to basics.
Sometimes these food choices are lost in manic information overloads highlighting the diet of the day: no fat, high fat; no carbs, which is often confused with no fruit or vegetables; high protein, no dairy; gluten or gluten-free. The memory of what’s really best for us is lost in the overload.
The ADA recommends a daily way of eating that includes healthy portions of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fish, avocado, olive oil and low-fat dairy choices.
Manning said the most important step someone can take is asking for help. The ADA, she said, represents licensed nutritionists and dietitians who aren’t product pitch people or salesmen.
They’re an ideal resource for education, accountability and developing a long-term plan for weight loss and management. She said underlying issues that can contribute to weight gain are often exposed in this process.
But she also refers patients to psychotherapy if they have experienced deep trauma; physical, sexual or emotional abuse; or depression.
“You know, it’s kind of bittersweet for me,” Malisa Osborne said. “I’ve lost 81 pounds in six months, but I have a lot of loose skin and I’m still working on getting my head wrapped around seeing myself differently.”
Osborne said today, six months out from bariatric surgery, she feels great. She had a gastric sleeve procedure in August and said she chose what some say is a drastic step, reducing the size of the stomach, because she needed to know she couldn’t overeat any longer. Left to her own devices, she was afraid she would continue to eat and gain, spending many hours and dollars on a trainer to counter her intake.
She said it didn’t work. Today, she knows she can only eat very small meals that focus on high nutrition.
“Some people say this was the easy, quick fix. But I guarantee it was not easy and it requires a lifestyle change,” Osborne said. “I was ready for it though. I was sick of never winning the food war with myself, getting up past 300 pounds.
“Today, I often eat before going out with friends so I’m not tempted with junk food. It’s just part of me today. I live differently where it comes to food. I was not addicted to any kind of behavior to control my weight. I just ate horribly. I suppose I never learned how to eat at home, growing up.”
Honest and open in her willingness to share her story, Osborne said her remaining struggle is to redefine her own body image as she works to accept her true self — her thinner self, not the person she used to be on the outside.
She attends monthly support group meetings with others who underwent the surgery and said they are helpful. She is also quick to point out it took a group of people — a support network — to help her get where she is today, and she stays in close contact with them. Her next goal is to have excess skin surgically removed, but only when she reaches a healthy weight she knows works for her and allows her to live a vibrant life.
Being overweight is not anyone’s fault; finding paths to healthier living isn’t a blame game. Obesity is a chronic health problem. Like cancer or diabetes, it affects all of us. It also impacts the one who carries the weight and the community in treating and preventing a long list of health consequences.
If you or someone you love is overweight or might have any sort of eating disorder, here are some resources where you can find professional guidance and answers.
>> Oklahoma City-County Health Department’s Total Wellness program: occhd.org/tw
>> Oklahoma Eating Disorders Association: okeatingdisorders.org
>> Oklahoma City Community Foundation’s Get Moving OKC program: occf.org/getmovingokc
>> YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City: ymcaokc.org
>> Health Education Lifestyle Planning (HELP) wellness program for state HealthChoice enrollees: ok.gov/sib/member/wellness
>> Certified Healthy Oklahoma Program teaches businesses, schools, communities and more how to implement healthy practices: certifiedhealthyok.com
>> American Diabetes Association: diabetes.org
>> American Academy of Nutritionists and Dietetics: eatright.org
>> National Eating Disorders Association: nationaleatingdisorders.org
Facing Oklahoma’s obesity epidemic requires long-term education of adults and children to fundamentally change health and wellness habits. At its core, this change also requires us to restore the euphemistic “diet” definition into its intended meaning: healthy eating and living well. The American Diabetes Association dietary recommendations include a variety of foods:
>> lean meats: fish, poultry; like yakatori skewered chicken with salad leaf and maki sushi
>> fruits: like kiwi, cherries, strawberries and citrus fruits
>> vegetables: like fresh vegetable salad with salmon (pictured)
>> nonfat dairy: yogurt or 1-percent milk; like nonfat yogurt with red currants and blueberries
>> whole grains: like muesli with bananas, blueberries, kiwis and mandarin oranges
>> beans: like tuna salad with fresh cherry tomatoes, red onions, arugula, basil, red wine vinegar and white beans
>> healthy fats: avocados, nuts, olive oil, sunflower oil; like sandwiches with avocado, radish, arugula, cheese and nuts on rye bread with sunflower seeds
Source: American Diabetes Association
About the author: Terre Cooke Chaffin is an Oklahoma City journalist, producer, writer and photographer. She specializes in physical and mental health, creativity and stories of personal growth. Her work encompasses her philosophy “Live Well Today.’
Print Headline: Weighed down, Successful weight management solutions incorporate simple, healthy eating plans, mental and physical wellness and, often, professional guidance.