Obesity expert Professor John Dixon debunks huge weight loss myth

It’s not your fault if you’re obese or seriously overweight, a leading international expert in obesity has revealed.

It’s not your fault if you’re obese or seriously overweight, a leading international expert in obesity has revealed.

In Australia, 28 per cent of the population are now clinically obese. But, as Professor John Dixon, from Melbourne’s Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, told I’ve Got News For You podcast host Andrew Bucklow, your adult weight is established by the time you’re three years old. And once it’s established, it’s hard to shift.

What your mother eats or if she smokes during her pregnancy or the foods you eat as a child, among other things, play a role in driving “this tendency to obesity” – meaning it’s time to reframe the issue, Professor Dixon explained.

“I’m saying bluntly, it’s not their fault. It’s not their fault. And I say that to patients, too – because they have tried to lose weight,” he said.

“They’re shamed and they’re blamed, and no one really looks at it and says ‘This is a behavioural condition’. Well, it’s a behavioural condition. But we all have to eat, and the symptoms of obesity are rather catastrophic for them.

“People often don’t think of the symptoms of obesity. But can you imagine being hungry all the time? Can you imagine being always ready to eat? … And when you put them on a diet, and they lose weight, it gets worse. They feel more out of control. It just drives them nuts.”

Prof Dixon, who has been in full-time, funded obesity research for 20 years and has published more obesity-related research manuscripts than any other Australian, added that another huge misconception is that someone with obesity can lose weight, and then keep it off.

But keeping it off is where the “real problem” begins – the likelihood of putting the weight you lose “with a diet and exercise … is 100 per cent”.

“You might be able to fight some off. But the weight gain after weight loss, it’s normal, natural, expected, it’s physiological, we’re made to do it – you can’t lose weight and not have your body try and put it back on,” Prof Dixon explained.

“If you take four kilograms of fat off someone with liposuction, that four kilograms will go back, because it’s regulated by hormones. It’ll go back in different places, but the body knows how much fat there is.”

Rather than viewing obesity as an issue caused by laziness or lack of self-control, we need to understand that it’s a complex condition determined by genetic, biological, societal and environmental factors, Prof Dixon said.

“Not only does the population blame them [for being obese], but they actually blame themselves. They think they’ve got no willpower. They’ve got no control. They can do anything else in life – but what they can’t do is control their weight,” he said.

“We’ve got to stop the blaming and shaming and look at these people as people with a serious issue that needs community concern, and consent for them to be able to have effective therapies if they need them.”

You can listen to the full chat with Professor John Dixon here.

Originally published as Obesity expert Professor John Dixon debunks huge weight loss myth

You may also like...