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No cure for obesity, researcher says

Dr. Arya Sharma is Professor of Medicine & Chair for Cardiovascular Obesity Research and Management at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. He is one of Canada's top obesity researchers and at a recent presentation in Edmonton claimed there is no cure obesity saying that once you're obese you're obese for life.

While I can understand how utterly fruitless it may seem at times to try and reverse obesity in our population, I disagree that there is "no cure" for obesity.

It's true that most who attempt to lose fat fail. However each time I have spoken in detail about fat loss strategies with a person who has failed to lose weight (probably over 1000 people), it is always revealed that they did not:

Have a long term commitment
Make an honest attempt to face their current perception of food, reward, health, and exercise
Implement evidence based diet and exercise strategies

But they did:

Have unrealistic short term goals
Viewed the weight loss attempt as negative and interfering with their current lifestyle
Implemented fad based diet and exercise strategies

There are plenty of examples of long terms successful fat loss. The National Weight Control Registry follows over 5000 people who have lost an average of 66 lbs and kept it off for 5.5 years. Obviously this is representing success.

Here are some of the habits members of the Registry reported:

78% eat breakfast every day.
75% weigh them self at least once a week.
62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.
90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day

According to a January 16, 2008 article in the Edmonton Sun, Dr. Arya Sharma mentions that obese people have three choices: "have bariatric surgery, become a lifelong calorie counter and fitness freak, or do nothing, - in which case complications from obesity could eventually kill them."

I take great exception to using the negatively charged reference, " calorie counter and fitness freak". In fact it's pedestrian throwback comments like this are part of the problem, not the solution.

Making a regular exerciser to be a "freak" goes against every major health authority in the world and decades of clinical research showing the benefits of regular daily exercise.

Of course a person would have to be mindful of their caloric intake and exercise regularly for life - it's a biological necessity for health. In fact being cognizant of healthy eating and participating in regular physical activity are the two dominant features in successful body fat management and living healthy, yet this Dr., who is clearly an expert, laments this proven strategy.

I think the good Dr. has become complacent and hardened by the challenge. His position is a sorry state and is not what I'm sure he sees as a reality check. The reality check is that obesity is reversible, but that success will require sweeping changes both in the individuals attempting to lose fat, and in society as whole. We need to stop associating overeating with reward, stop serving 1000+ calorie meals in restaurants as well as home cooking.

It's a huge undertaking that will take a few generations to reverse. We hear about the failures more than the successes because the failure rate is astronomical. Right now the success rate is about 5 to 10%. For every 100 people that make an initial attempt to lose fat, only 5 or 10, probably even fewer, will be successful long term. They are successful though, and I think we might do better by relentlessly striving to succeed by implementing successful strategies. Studies show the reason for poor results is failure to permanently adopt a healthy lifestyle.

That's the cure to obesity- living a healthy lifestyle.

2007 Cris LaBossiere Rhino Fitness

Copyright 2004 Rhino Fitness. All rights reserved.
For more information contact: clabossiere@rhinofitness.ca