Two lessons I learned as a bariatric dietitian

Six months ago, I made a decision to leave my 8 year career in a bariatric clinic to work for myself. I’ve learned a lot along the way and have every intention to continue to help people who struggle with obesity because there is still this weird stigma in our world that it’s a lifestyle choice. Obesity. Yes, I said it. Obesity isn’t a taboo word. But our world has made it to be one.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health. It is also a chronic disease and was recognized as such in 2013 by the American Medical Association (AMA).  Which brings me to my lessons:

  1. Obesity is a chronic disease. Once you have it, you will be fighting it for the rest of your life. How do  I know this? Because I  never met a client who woke up one day and said “today is the day I am going to start putting on extra weight and never look back.” I never met anyone who lost weight, felt fantastic and then CHOSE to regain it all back with lightning speed, either. It takes intensive, lifestyle change and for some, weight loss surgery. It simply is not a lifestyle choice of eating too much and exercising too little. Don’t agree? I’m willing to bet you know someone who eats well, exercises, and still has an extra twenty pounds or so on their body. You probably also know someone who never exercises, eats fast food most days of the week and has stayed the same weight since they graduated high school. It’s not a choice for everyone. And no one can pick their dream weight and will themselves to it with enough motivation. Everyone’s body has an eventual stopping point. Even those who have weight loss surgery will usually his a plateau after they’ve lost 35% of their initial body weight.
  2. Most, probably all, people struggle with something. It might be depression or anxiety. It might be fibromyalgia or arthritis. Maybe chronic fatigue syndrome. Could be irritable bowel syndrome or chrohn’s disease. Or social anxiety, insecurity, or fear of any kind. The problem with obesity is that it is for all to see and make judgements as they wish. And that sucks. If we really want to hide the others, we can. And we often do with a smile and the stories we tell others and ourselves. Give grace and mercy for the things you can’t see but also the things that you can.

I’m not trying to be a downer here. My mission is to help. It’s my passion, actually. My recent discovery of natural options, particularly essential oils, has also given me hope that we have more control over our choice of healthcare than we even realize. Options.  For years I struggled with migraines, daily, and in the beginning no one knew until it was all they knew about me because I didn’t know what else to do. I will save that for another post. But I have spent the majority of my career as a bariatric dietitian telling people they had no other option than to submit to bariatric surgery. I still believe there are many that need it to save their life, particularly quality of life. But I also believe there is a large percentage that have a choice. And that’s why I’m here.