One of the most important things I ask my patients to learn in my clinics is that their extra weight is not their fault. Many of them spend their whole lives blaming themselves for any excess weight that they may be living with, but science tells us that this is not the case.
We know from the Foresight report, which is a report that was put together by some UK leading experts in weight management in 2007, that there are more than 100 causes of weight gain and obesity in the UK, and also that almost all of those are beyond the conscious control of most people most of the time. That’s a fancy way of saying that if you are living with more weight than you want to be, assuming that you are actually living with excess body weight rather than wanting to force your body to be unnaturally thin, it’s almost certainly not your fault.
The reality is that in the UK we have created what is described as an obesogenic environment. This means that many things about the way that we live naturally encourages to gain weight as a population. For me the most interesting question is not why people gain weight, but more why people don’t gain weight – because weight gain is the natural consequence of living in the UK in 21st century.
This can be related to all 70 jobs and sedentary pastimes. It is also related to the food that we eat. We tend to eat a lot more ultra processed food than we used to and we also rely far more on convenience meals in general. We eat a lot more meals outside of the home and we know that foods prepared in supermarkets and restaurants tend to have more ingredients in them that are associated with weight gain. We also live in a much more stressful environment and we tend to get less sleep, and many other factors besides this all combined to result in weight gain over time for most people.
One of the most important messages to come out of the foresight report is that we need to move away from a concept of each individual person being responsible for their own body rates and we need to take a look at how we function as a society because it’s our overall environment that’s resulting in weight gain for most people, not their individual choices.
If you are someone who’s living with excess weight then it may indeed be true that you have eaten more than the ideal amount and been less active than the recommended level over many years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those things are your fault. We need to take a step back and look at the reasons why this has happened, and this is generally quite complex, and related to your genetics and your surroundings. These are very powerful drivers of the choices that you make at a subconscious level every day, and they are the things that contribute to weight gain over time.
So please stop blaming yourself for your excess weight and start being kind to yourself. There are ways to lose weight but beating yourself up isn’t one of them and it doesn’t help.