So you nervously lined up at the start of a race this weekend eyeing up your competitors, checking to see if there is anyone of a similar build to you in what I like to call the Fat Runner Scan. You know for sure you won't win but for goodness sake don't let me come last you say to yourself, as you move towards the middle of the starting field in a final attempt to avoid the dreaded last place spot.
I applied for a job a few years ago and I got down to the last few candidates. I was very excited as it was a 'big brand' and at the final 'papal nod of the CEO' stage he began to ask me what I thought was an odd line of questioning. It started pretty early into what became the longest half hour of my life. "So Mark, have you always been overweight?" he asked.
Behaviour is triggered and controlled subconsciously without us even realising it. Trying to think about our condition logically and rationally rarely achieves anything because the unconscious part of our mind is so incredibly powerful that it will almost always over-ride any remedial action we try. Only by retuning the unconscious can progress against obesity ever be made.
Being overweight is not simply one-sided and negative. It has a function and a purpose. You may feel bad about your weight, but importantly can you see a new meaning in your weight? Can you give yourself a chance to figure out what all of your extra eating is about? Can you see any benefits to having extra weight, or have you anxieties around letting go of weight or food?
There is nothing new about our love of fat and sugar. We have a strong evolutionary drive to eat these foods because they are rich sources of calories which can be laid down as fat - which is simply stored energy. Our ancestors needed plenty of fat to fuel activity during periods of food scarcity and to pay for our large, expensive brains.
Exercise more, eat (and drink) fewer calories. It's a simple message, but hard to do. In fact, the more we learn about obesity, the more we realise how complex the problem is and why hammering home this message on its own doesn't get you very far, if you're trying to help people lose weight or prevent them becoming overweight in the first place.