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If you gave an exam to a million or more people and three-quarters of them failed , would you say that their failure was due to a lack of willpower or just to laziness? Or would you ever wonder if the test itself was flawed?

If the test tried to measure the ability of people to lose weight, then the results would be parallel the failure rates for many Brits who are trying hard to reduce their weight. According to a Food & Health Survey from 2011 conducted by the Ministry of Health, 80 percent of Brits are trying to lose some or a lot of weight or actively trying to avoid gaining weight. Despite all their efforts, nearly 50 percent of us are overweight or even obese.

Given this inability of the vast majority of us to lose weight, are we all just simply weak-willed lay bones? Or are there other factors which are operating to make our failure the most likely result?

For the majority, the exam takers do not really blame others for their repeated failure; they blame… themselves. We are desperate to succeed despite our history of dangerous diet scams and weight loss schemes, consumers still continue their search for a kind of magical solution to weight loss and they will willingly throw lots of money at the problem. The market for weight loss products is growing at an annual rate of  ten percent  and includes food, supplements, drugs, services, devices, ingredients, cosmetics and accessories. By next year the value of the market is anticipated to reach $588 billion.

We Are Designed To Eat

So why then is it so very difficult to lose our weight? Obesity psychologist Jim Keller is Director of Behavioral Health. He works at the WeightWise Bariatric Program in Oklahoma City. He asserts that our bodies and our brains are designed to eat. This explains why losing our weight proves so very challenging for so many of us.

Keller, who has conducted 16,000 interviews of  people considering bariatric weight loss surgery, says that the causes of such obesity are very complex. Obesity is not just simply a function of our laziness nor is it indication of our emotional instability. In addition, the genetic and the biological factors do not ever act in isolation, but they are constantly interacting in a complex way with an array of environmental factors around us. Keller says that both the availability and, of course, the very persuasive advertising of such unhealthy food contributes to the obesity epidemic.

Why Is Changing Our Habits So Difficult?

While many external and genetic factors do play a role, no one ever questions that these individuals are in charge of all their daily decisions about what and then how much to eat. So once we do make up our minds to really change a habit, then why do we find us falling back into old habits so quickly? Why can’t we just simply get on and make a decision and get on with life? What frustrates and puzzles many trying to lose their weight is why this changing of one’s eating habits is so tough.

According to Dr. Howard Rankin, who is an expert on behavioral change, a major part of the problem is that we just believe we have more control over that behaviour than we really do. Stress,addiction and anxiety  can limit all of the conscious control that we have over our choices. Dr. Rankin says:

What drives all our behavior is not our logic but brain’s biochemistry, addictions and habits, our states of consciousness and then what we see people around us are saying or doing. We are highly emotional beings with the ability to rationalise ourselves and situations — not rational objects with emotions. If we are stressed out, highly depressed or addicted to something, no matter how good all the advice we hear, the chances are that, in fact, we will not be able to act on it. So the more primitive and emotional brain has generally precedence over the newer and more rational brain.

But even if we did remove those people who are depressed, stressed or addicted from the sample group, we still would always be left with a large population of people who are really unable to stick with their all their resolve to lose weight.

I speak from my own experience. I’ve often started many days really resolved to just eat healthy for the remainder of my entire life. But, of course, by late evening, there’s a piece of chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream which has somehow found its way on to my plate!



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