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Dec 27

Dr Rangan Chatterjee: Why diets dont work and how to lose weight without them – The Telegraph

His new book, Feel Great Lose Weight, which is serialised all this week in The Telegraph, sets out to unpick these complexities. He breaks things down into five sections: what, why, when, how and where we eat, how to eat well, why our emotions cause us to overeat, why timing of meals is crucial, the importance of eating mindfully, and finally, how our environment is partly to blame for rising obesity.

On that subject, early on in the book Chatterjee announces it a blame-free zone. He cites an example during our interview, thats also in the book, about a female patient who came to see him who was very overweight and struggling to lose it. When her story unravelled, it transpired she had been a victim of domestic violence and after her relationship ended, she had gained a lot of weight. During therapy she admitted that she (wrongly) believed being overweight was in some way a protective measure to stop anybody from falling in love with her. Staying overweight, she reasoned, kept her safe.

You dont often read about domestic violence in a diet book, but thats why I believe this is so much more than a diet book, says Chatterjee. As a GP I know first hand how complicated weight can be, how far it stretches back into our childhood, how its interwoven with other issues. You cant judge somebody for being overweight, or assume theyre lazy. For somebody like my patient, its a reaction to domestic abuse.

For others its less extreme. It could be that they get home from work at 8pm from a high-stress job and are too wrung out to cook, or theyre lonely and eat ice-cream to find joy. For many, eating isnt so much about willpower as it is about self-worth or stress levels.

"Im a GP and Ive got the number one health podcast in the UK, but even I had a problem with sugar during lockdown because I was so stressed out. I knew it wasnt good for me. But what and why we eat often goes deeper than that. If youre stressed, hormonal changes take place in your body that cause you to crave certain foods. People arent weak-willed; theyre struggling.

Yet despite the sympathetic approach of the book, when he announced on Instagram he was writing a new book, this time about weight loss (as well as Feel Better in Five, he has also written two best-selling books on stress), he had what he calls a bit of push back from some of his 220,000 followers.

They hadnt read the book because it wasnt out yet, but some of the messages I received said things like: I cant believe youre putting out a diet book and I thought you were better than this Dr Chatterjee. It didnt feel great if Im honest. So I stepped back, did a bit of self-reflection, and tried to understand why they felt that way.

The answer, he thinks, is the fact terms like weight and diet have become emotive subjects in recent years. On Instagram, body positivity encourages people to love their bodies no matter their size. But Chatterjee feels this reaction misses the point of his book. For a start, its not a diet book, at least not in the conventional sense. There is no plan to follow. There is no talk of dropping dress sizes.

But given the link between obesity and Covid, not to mention the other illnesses that being overweight raises the risk of, from heart disease to cancer, Chatterjee thinks a conversation about weight is valid and much needed. He cites Englands former chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, who recently claimed thousands of Covid deaths could have been avoided if ministers had tackled the UKs rising obesity crisis.

This is something we need to talk about, albeit in a kind and supportive way, says Chatterjee. Im a generalist Im a GP so Ive always taken a 360-degree approach to health. From working in a surgery, Ive realised that people arent weak-willed or greedy, but they need help to find a sustainable approach to losing weight that suits their lifestyle. Thats the key. You cant tell somebody who is lonely to eat less sugar, and you cant tell somebody who works 14-hour days to spend an hour cooking every night.

On the subject of cooking, Chatterjee makes a refreshing call in his book for people to be more accepting of simple, straightforward meals rather than the elaborate and beautifully displayed ones we see on cookery shows and posted on Instagram: Countries with the lowest obesity rates often eat bland and repetitive foods. Im not saying you cant enjoy delicious, flavoursome foods. But neither do I think you should strive to make every meal mind-blowingly tasty. Food has become a status symbol. Theres a place for that type of food, but it makes things harder because it teaches our taste buds to seek out blissy foods [his term for processed, high fat, sugar and salt foods, which are irresistible to the human brain].

Of exercise, he says it shouldnt be a part of the weight loss equation. Movement should never be associated with burning off calories. Its simply a way to make you feel more alive, more energetic, to help you sleep better and strengthen your joints and muscles. Those are the reasons we should move every day, not to burn calories.

His book explores how our environments have changed in the last 40 years and how that has contributed to rising obesity levels: The Eighties changed everything in terms of food and weight, and it was when the [obesity] curve started going up. Humans didnt suddenly become lazy and gluttonous back then, but rather food manufacturers started making cheap, energy-dense processed food available wherever we looked, snacking became normal and our jobs became more sedentary.

We didnt change, the world around us did. But dont despair, because theres plenty you can do about it.

Go here to read the rest:
Dr Rangan Chatterjee: Why diets dont work and how to lose weight without them - The Telegraph

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