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Extreme Weight Loss: Desperation Reflects Misinformation

Increasingly extreme approaches toward weight loss reflect the amount of misinformation that surrounds diet and permanent weight change.

It has always been thus.

People wiring their jaws shut to prevent them from overeating. Long lines at the bariatric surgeon's office, where guts are re-routed and stomachs cut in half. The usual parade of ear beads, hormone shots, B12, herbal stimulants, and electrical belts that shock muscles into painful contraction. There has always been weight loss desperation, but we may be descending to a new and even more depressing low.

Today's online Science Daily discusses a method for quick weight loss, an 800 calorie diet via feeding tube. It seems that some doctors (can we call them that, really?) are placing feeding tubes and giving patients the same treatment that hospital patients would do pretty much anything to avoid-- a nasty, painful plastic catheter down the nose. Seems that this particular treatment is becoming a fad for brides who want to shed pounds quickly and has been around in Europe for awhile. See an ABC news article on the same topic, published yesterday.

Physicians take an oath to "do no harm". It's a promise that we are not particularly good at keeping. Sometimes the calculus is difficult. Is an invasive test more harmful than ignoring a little abnormaility you find on an x-ray, for example? But where we do a particularly poor job in my estimation is in matters of basic health counseling. Here, we err on the side of potentially harmful treatments such as multiple blood pressure meds, diabetes drugs and statins rather than exhorting and inspiring patients to make deep and meaningful dietary changes. The latter are risk free. Far from doing harm, they do immeasurable good.

The problem is misinformation, not malintent. Doctors believe what the general public does. That weight loss is pretty much impossible and weight maintenance unattainable. They also have little idea about good strategies for creating weight loss. They are loathe to exhort patients to lose weight because they have nothing to offer except the suggestion. This often causes patient resentment. Can you imagine if your doctor's entire response to your diabetes was, "You've got to get rid of your diabetes?"

Diets that lower insulin to very low levels and are higher in protein are appetite suppressants. No one needs a feeding tube to create this effect. Simply go on the Atkins diet (no carbs) or eat lean meat, fish or chicken and salads for a few days and you will have the same experience. The only thing that the feeding tube accomplishes is that it makes you squeamish about swallowing whole food while it's in. At the same time, the possiblity of irritation or ulceration of the esophagus and stomach is very real. 

Weight loss requires significant calorie restriction, not cutting back 100 calories per day—another misinformed strategy we hear alot about. This technique is not only ineffective, it is impossible to do since the diet varies from day to day. Try eliminating 100 calories and keeping everything else EXACTLY the same for more than one day. The body must believe there is a food emergency if it is to have any urgency about burning stored fat. This food emergency can be accomplished by following pretty much any good diet that is low in carbohydrate (100 grams per day or less and no processed carbs, just fruits and vegetables). The trick is to find a diet which suits you so that you can be fully (as in 100 percent) compliant. 

Long term weight loss will continue as long as the amount of carbohydrate in the diet stays at the same level as it was during weight loss. In other words, you have to keep doing your weight loss diet but with the addition of greater volumes of none carbohydrate foods to keep weight stable. Some men and some younger women will need a small amount of additional carb to avoid continued loss. But most won't. This piece of the puzzle is the source of most misinformation. Eating "moderately" will not keep weight off.

Ancient diets and their modern modifications (like my Primarian suggestions) are the best way to avoid regain. They cut out not only excess carbs by eliminating grains, breads, pastas, potatoes and sweets, but they also eliminate processed foods. The additives in processed foods, or even their packaging — who knows? —may be contributing to insulin resistance and disruption of other endocrine factors that are required for weight balance. 

More extreme forms of weight loss treatment reflect increasing desperation with our nation's greatest health concern. Desperation, though, reflects misinformation... the fact that we've done a poor job of educating people about what actually works. The reason for the knowledge gap? Most doctors (and in my opinion, dieticians) are still in the dark. 

To read more by Dr. Berkeley, follow her at www.refusetoregain.com or on Facebook at Refuse to Regain: Barbara's World.

Would you resort to a feeding tube to drop pounds for your wedding day? Tell us in the comments!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Molly Neider April 17, 2012 at 04:38 PM
I really believe that most of these gimmics aren't concerned with health, the concern is looking good. Obesity is an obvious "illness". You can't pretend to be thin. However, you can pretend not to drink, not to throw up your lunch and dinner, you can not smoke in front of others and you can be reckless on the road and in your decisions and no one needs to know. All of these problems affect all of us in insurance costs and days off. However, we'll pick on obesity because we equate overweight with lazziness and sloppiness, and it takes the sting away from the others that are less obvious. It's amazing how the obese have become the group to most be attacked, yet alcoholism affects and kills more persons each year than all the others put together. But many alcoholics look "normal" therefore unaffected by the taunts of others. Dr. Cosgrove of the Cleveland Clinic would be happy to hire the alcoholic, due to his lean stature, rather than the obese. What signal are we sending to our children... "don't get fat" - not let's stay healthy at whatever weight that may be for you. People watch for a day and see all the different shapes and sizes and then try to determine which persons are healthy and which are not. That's how we are determining health in the U.S. at this very moment.
Benjamin Easton April 18, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Great Article and good information. It never ceases to amaze me, the lengths which people will go to to in order to look "healthy" without actually being "healthy". There never will be anything as beneficial for us as eating healthy consistently, in moderation, and exercise. Recent data suggests that aproximately 16% of the population get regular daily exercise - while obesity rates continue to climb. There is no short cut to being health - just a decision that everyone needs to make for themselves.
ui September 24, 2012 at 09:56 AM
Market the center. Purchase advertising in local newspapers, and secure radio and television spots. Design and post fliers in locations frequented by people who would benefit from a weight loss program. Gyms, doctor offices, public pools and salons are all good places to post information. Clients in those places tend to care about their health and their looks and would provide a good target market audience for your weight loss center. Thanks. Regards, http://www.creativebioscience.com/

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