Millions of people -- a very substantial percentage of the population, in fact -- need to lose weight. Most of them know it, I assume, and have made at least some effort to do something about it. Many, many people have been trying to lose weight for much of their lives. But, rare is the person that achieves a substantial weight loss and maintains that loss over the long term. I certainly haven't achieved that.
So why is it so hard? Why do so few people succeed?
Even if you strip away fad diets (pineapple, anyone?) and stick only to approaches with significant medical support, there's not a whole lot of consensus about how to go about losing excess pounds. The one approach with broad support argues that the goal is to reduce the level of calories gained through food below the level of calories expended through exercise, biological activities and the like. Pretty simple, eh? If it doesn't work, the problem is with the dieter. The problem might be in the dieter's lack of knowledge or other issue beyond his/her immediate control, but (we tell ourselves) the problem for most involves defective character. The person who can't lose weight is weak, we believe: there's just no will power.
Call me a skeptic.
Consider diabetes, which affects another area of metabolism. Is blood glucose control simple? No, it most certainly isn't. Even intelligent people with extensive knowledge about diabetes and about their own bodies, people who've been managing their conditions with a high degree of success for decades, regularly find themselves in situations which they don't understand and aren't quite sure how to address.
So why should we expect that weight loss would reduce to such a simple equation? Isn't it almost ludicrous to think that it does?
There is a LOT of good, solid research going on about the various issues around diet, nutrition, weight loss, the whole hairy set of issues. I believe that in a decade or so we'll look back at how we now look at weight loss with a sad shake of the head. I am hopeful that what the scientists learn will someday make successful, sustainable weight loss manageable for many more people.
Am I just making excuses for myself? Maybe I am.
I'm NOT offering an alibi, though: the "battle of the bulge" is worth fighting even if we're not winning. It's pretty clear that the choices believed to result in weight loss are great for us, whether we're seeing success on the scale or not. The effort itself is worth it, so, in Voltaire's famous words, let us cultivate our gardens. And we'll probably be better off yet if we eat mostly what we grow there. :)