Fighting Obesity​—Is It Worth the Effort?

AWAKE! interviewed several people who have battled with obesity problems. Did they get good results? What do they suggest for other victims of this epidemic?

Let us check with Mike, aged 46, who is six feet [183 cm] tall and presently weighs 285 pounds [130 kg]. At his peak, he weighed 347 pounds [157 kg].

Mike: “Even as a youth, I was overweight. It runs in the family​—my brother and my sisters are all overweight. Our tradition was that we never left anything on our plate, even if it was overloaded. What made me change my eating style? When the doctor told me that I was at high risk for diabetes! The idea of being on insulin all my life really scared me. I also had a bad cholesterol problem and was having to take medication.

“I was in a sedentary occupation, and that has not changed. So in order to compensate, I have a regular schedule of exercise, which includes use of a treadmill for half an hour at least three times a week. The next vital step was writing down what I ate each day. Knowing that the dietitian was going to check my list each week helped me to put on the brakes. The thought came to my mind, ‘If you don’t eat it, you won’t have to write it!’

“As a consequence, I have lost 62 pounds [28 kg] over the past 15 months, although I still need to lose more, as I want to get down to 225 pounds [102 kg]. To achieve this, I have eliminated snack foods, potato chips, and casseroles. I have eaten more salad and vegetables in recent months than I had in all my life previously!

“Another factor that motivated me to take action was that as a truck driver, I have to have a medical check-up each year in order to renew my license. I was in danger of losing my license because of the threat of diabetes. Now things have changed. I no longer need to take medication to keep my cholesterol in check. My blood pressure is  down, and I am taking less medication for it. I have more energy, and even my severe back problems have eased. I am also slowly getting out of the obese category!”

Awake!: “Can a wife play a positive role in bringing down weight?”

Mike: “When you are fighting overweight, you need to have someone backing you up. My wife used to feel that she was showing me affection by keeping me well fed. But now she helps me to control the portions on my plate. I cannot afford to relax my vigilance because if I do, before I know it, I am putting on pounds once again.”

Consider another man named Mike, from Kansas, U.S.A. He is 43 years old and is five feet eight inches [173 cm] tall. We asked him about his peak weight and the causes of his weight problem.

Mike: “I peaked at about 300 pounds [135 kg]. I was always tired and had no energy for anything. I could not sleep because of breathing problems. So I went to a doctor, and he diagnosed one of the causes of my weight problem as obstructive sleep apnea. * He also noted that I had high blood pressure.”

Awake!: “What was the solution to your problems?”

Mike: “The doctor prescribed an apparatus that supplies continuous positive airway pressure when I am sleeping. That way my throat is not obstructed, and I can breathe normally. As a result, I became more active during the day and began to lose weight. I also started using a treadmill three times a week. I went on a diet, which meant controlling the portions I ate and avoiding second helpings of food. I have now lost 50 pounds [20 kg] in just over a year, and I need to lose 50 [20] more. It is a slow process, but I know I can do it.”

Awake!: “What other motivation have you had to lose weight?”

Mike: “It is not pleasant when you have to listen to snide and unkind remarks about your appearance. People tend to think that you are just a lazy person. They do not realize that obesity can have many causes. I believe that in my case, the problem could partially be due to hereditary factors, since most in my family have a weight problem.

“However, I acknowledge that to lose weight, I must keep active and strictly control my diet.”

Awake! also interviewed Wayne from Oregon, aged 38. When he was 31, he weighed 246 pounds [112 kg].

Wayne: I had a sedentary job and was getting no exercise. When I went to my doctor, I was shocked to learn that I had high blood pressure and was in danger of heart complications. He sent me to a dietitian. She put me on a strict regimen of exercise and of controlled  portions at meals. I began to walk three miles [5 km] nonstop every day, and I got up early each morning to exercise. I had to reeducate myself regarding my eating and drinking habits. I eliminated junk food and cut back on bread and sodas, replacing them with more fruit and vegetables. Now my weight is down to 175 pounds [80 kg]!”

Awake!: “What benefits have you noted?”

Wayne: “I feel that I am healthier and that I am really living again. Before, it was as if my life were on hold, as if I were stagnating. Another benefit is that I have been able to drop the medications for high blood pressure. And I feel that I can look people in the eye, knowing that there will be no implied criticism because of excess weight.”

Charles (not his real name) is six feet five inches [196 cm] tall. At his peak weight, he weighed 370 pounds [168 kg].

Charles: “I had major health problems, and things were getting worse. I could not climb stairs. I lacked the energy I needed to get my work done. I have a sedentary occupation, and my work involves research and responsibility. I knew that I had to do something about my weight, especially after seeing my doctor. He warned me that I was on the way to having a stroke. I have seen what that does to a person. This convinced me that I needed to take action. My doctor put me on a supervised exercise regimen using a treadmill, and I was given a strict diet to follow. Now, after about a year, I am down to 300 pounds [136 kg], but I know that I must lose more. The benefits I have already noticed convince me that it is worth the sacrifice and the effort. Now I can climb stairs, and I have more energy.”

Marta, originally from El Salvador, reached a point where she weighed 182 pounds [83 kg]. This classified her as obese for her height of five feet five inches [165 cm].

Marta: “I went to a doctor, and he strongly recommended that I start losing weight. I respected his professional opinion. He sent me to a nutritionist for counsel. The nutritionist explained the whys and wherefores of the regimen I was going to follow. She showed me how to limit my portions and how to keep a check on what I was eating. At first, I had to report to her each week; and later, each month, to show how I was doing. Both the doctor and the nutritionist encouraged me for the good progress I was making. Eventually, I lost 27 pounds [12 kg], and I am holding my own at about 150 pounds [68 kg].”

Awake!: “What about exercise and medication?”

Marta: “I did not have a cholesterol problem, and I had no need of medication. I did start incorporating more brisk walking in my daily routine.”

Awake!: “What did you do when you visited friends and they insisted that you eat more than your normal portions?”

Marta: “I would just say to them, ‘My doctor wants me to follow this diet for my health’s sake,’ and they would usually not insist.”

So if you are overweight or obese, what can you do about it? The old adage is true, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Do you have the motivation and the willpower to do something about it? As an overweight child or an overweight adult, what are your choices? Lose weight or possibly lose years of life. Adopt an active life-style, and feel the satisfaction of accomplishment​—even in small things, such as smaller sizes in your clothing!


^ par. 11 For more information on sleep apnea, see Awake! of February 8, 2004, pages 10-12.

[Box on page 11]

Is liposuction the answer for you?

What is liposuction? One dictionary defines it as: “Usually cosmetic surgical procedure in which excess fatty tissue is removed from a specific area of the body, such as the thighs or abdomen, by means of suction. Also called suction lipectomy.” (American Heritage Dictionary) However, does that mean it is a remedy for obesity?

The Mayo Clinic on Healthy Weight says that liposuction is cosmetic surgery. It is not a weight-loss plan. Fat cells are sucked out of the body by means of a narrow tube inserted under the skin. Several pounds can be removed in one session. However, “the surgery isn’t a treatment for obesity.” Is it a safe procedure? “People with certain weight-related medical conditions, including diabetes and heart disease, are at increased risk of complications from liposuction.”