Wednesday, September 15, 2010

When Weight Loss Organizations Take It Too Far

When Weight Loss Organizations Take It Too Far

More of my hard-earned dollars have found their way into the coffers of weight loss organizations than I care to count. I admit I have tried them all. Finally, though, I can say that I lost the weight I wanted to lose and have maintained it for over five years. It's a small success.

But my success is tempered by the very people who purportedly helped me get to my personal goal. While I may be happy and comfortable with the amount of weight I lost, the weight loss organization does not agree. After meeting my personal weight goal, one that was agreed upon between the organization and me, I was encouraged to drop another 5-10.

"You'll be happier and like yourself better if you're skinnier, " I was told.

Actually to get skinnier I would have had to starve, certainly not something that would make me happy.

With the media focused on the negative messages sent to young women by anorexic models and starving actors, no mention is ever made of legitimate weight loss organizations. Believe it or not these organizations can be just as much to blame for eating disorders. Here's why.

Let's say you join a popular weight loss group. You only want to lose 20 pounds but are "advised" to lose 30. You are then told that "it is always best to get at least five pounds below goal." So now, instead of the 20 pounds you felt were right to lose, you're being told to lose 35. That's 15 pounds more than you wanted to originally lose and you're paying for every pound. The impetus to lose the weight at any cost is high.

A woman in a popular weight loss group could not lose the last seven pounds of the 60 she was told she needed to lose. Fifty-three was all her body was willing to give up. Yet she was pressured relentlessly by the person in charge of the meetings to "lose that extra baggage."

"I am really ashamed to say that I wanted to just starve to get rid of the so-called extra baggage. I briefly contemplated taking laxatives to help me and then laughed at myself for such a ridiculous thought."

My colleague belonged to a nationally known organization. She was told to leave half of all her meals on the plate. The problem was the meals, which came from the organization itself, were already excruciatingly small. When she protested, her weight coach said: "Come on! Don't you want to shoot for a size zero and be happy?"

Zero? Since when did a zero become the poster number for looking your best?!

According to a new Canadian study, there is solid evidence that not reaching a size zero or even having 10 to 15 pounds of extra weight on your body may actually be healthier for you and help you live longer. There is, it appears, a big difference (no pun intended) between carrying a bit of extra fat and being obese. A healthy weight, not a size, is what you should 'shoot' for.

We are bombarded with images from well-known weight loss organizations that subtly, and not so subtly, hint at how horrible our lives will be if we aren't a certain size and weight. We are made to feel that there is something wrong with us if we don't achieve the "right" number on the scale and the smaller that number the better.

The public needs to remember that the weight loss industry is a highly competitive multi-billion dollar business. The commercials, the testimonials, the before and after pictures are all advertising at its best -- and it works.

Your weight is subjective. Make your own decision about what is best for you and not what someone else says is best. Skinnier is not better. Being healthy should be the prime objective. That's happiness.

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