Thought Catalog
December 3, 2014

Telling An Obese Person To Eat Less And Move More Is Like Telling A Depressed Person To Quit Being Sad

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John Cisna might have the biggest balls in the America. Here is a dude, a science teacher mind you, who took conventional diet wisdom (if you listen to paleo, vegan, atkins, insert diet name here zealots) and took a hot steaming dump all over their ideas. How? John Cisna lost 60lbs by eating nothing but McDonalds for 6 straight months. All he did was eat less, and move more.

In reality can it be that simple? And if it is that simple, why aren’t more people doing it?

It’s hard to put a solid number on how many Americans are obese. Most estimates put it at somewhere around 35% (78 million of us fine folks), with another 30% coming in at the self-esteem saving title “overweight”. Americans are fat. And just like good Americans do, we don’t do something half ass. We’ve successfully full assed our attempt to become the fattest nation in the history of the world. Congrats guys. We made it. Merica.

In another nod to being classic Americans, we’ve decided to put off this issue until it becomes something too large to handle (catch that pun there?). Obesity in 2009 cost the US healthcare system roughly 152 billion, with a B, in direct costs. That doesn’t include insurance premiums or loss of income due to missed work. It stands to reason that number easily hits 200 billion.

Most people know these little tid bits. They know that obesity is costly. They know they’re health is out of control. People aren’t idiots. They know that to lose weight they need to quit eating out so damn much, move around some more during the day, eat lots of foods that come from the dirt, and exercise.

But nobody does it.

Knowing is one thing, doing is a whole different animal.

Studies have proven endlessly that knowledge alone isn’t enough to bring about change. We know that network news sells fear to boost ratings, yet still watch. Alcoholics know that their addiction is ripping their lives and health apart, but they don’t stop.

Dick Talens, the Co-Founder of Fitocracy tweeted a very poignant point the other night, talking about this exact conundrum.

Telling an obese person to eat less and move more is like telling a depressed person to quit being sad.

Most obese people don’t revel in the fact that they’ve provided themselves with excess cushioning to pad themselves in case they might fall. They hate it, and want to change it. But the cold hard truth is that change is hard. And it doesn’t follow a linear path for everyone. How one person changes isn’t how another person changes.

For change to truly happen, it must become a habit. And therein lies the hard part. Creating new habits is hard. Using those new habits to write over your old ones is even harder. With some studies suggesting that 40% of your daily life is nothing but habits, there’s plenty of room for things to go right or wrong.

Habit creation is the shit you should be on.

You don’t actually ever destroy old habits. Those old shitty patterns always exist in your brain, you just write over them with new ones. Instead of walking in the door and immediately eating a Twinkie, maybe the new habit becomes walking in the door and immediately putting on your gym clothes. That’s just a very small example, but a point about how little tiny changes can bring about huge change over time.

Habits are the key to success in everything in life. The more we practice it, the more it becomes ingrained and a part of our daily routine. Once it’s part of the routine, you only get thrown off if you don’t follow that productive habit.

Habit creation won’t happen overnight. Before a new activity becomes a habit, you’re probably going to fail at it. A lot. That’s alright. Don’t get down on yourself.

Take a different approach:

• Look at why it happened, in an objective manner
• Accept that it happened
• Tell yourself you’re still the biggest badass in the land
• Move on with your life

Being cognizant of why you faltered is the key to long term success. If you can isolate what made that old habit come back from the dead, kind of like that one ex you had a terrible breakup with you saw on the street, you can change that variable to set yourself up for long term success. Just don’t ever forget, you’re the biggest badass in all of the land. TC mark