Go it alone and you [probably] won’t lose weight

Nice NY Times piece from Gina Kolata, amplifying the findings from today’s University of Chicago poll on obesity.

The self-help route has not been successful for most. Ninety-four percent of the survey participants who were obese had tried to lose weight with diet or exercise, to no avail. A quarter of those people said they had tried five to nine times, and 15 percent said they had tried more than 20 times.

“Trying 20 times and not succeeding — is that lack of willpower, or a problem that can’t be treated with willpower?” asked Dr. Louis Aronne, the director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Center at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian, who was not involved with the study.

Too many Americans (read: most all of us) are attempting weight loss using approaches that have no evidence base. Upwards of 1 in 5 American deaths is related to obesity. Obesity causes a wide range of health conditions that sap our physical function, quality of life, and money. And yet, we’ve become all too comfortable treating obesity with what amounts to well intentioned snake oil. I challenge you to think of another chronic disease where we embrace treatments that, well, don’t work.

How did we get here? Too little training in med school, too little [and otherwise anemic] treatment reimbursement policies, research that focuses on scaling outcomes vs scaling treatments, and lots and lots of stigma.

We have to do better.