Whose Fault Is It?

I will occasionally receive comments to blog posts I write some complimentary in nature about something I wrote that helped the person commenting and some critical/disagreeing with what I wrote. I very much welcome these comments, as this provides me feedback that people are actually reading what we post daily. Yesterday I received a very angry one about a post I wrote about a new study that showed a gene mutation could impact on weight control as that gene is responsible in large part from sensing hunger vs. satiety.

So, why the anger? The person commenting felt that I delivered a very discouraging/depressing message to people, i.e. “don’t even bother to try to lose/control weight…genetic factors have “fated” you to being overweight/obese for the rest of your life, so why even bother trying to fight a losing battle?” In her opinion, the blog post dissuades her from keeping up her efforts, and me, being a doctor supposedly trying to help people, should not discourage people, as my role should be to encourage/motivate people.

First, I want to thank the person for sending in the comment. Second, I would like to clarify a few issues. One of the many aspects of human nature is to want to attribute “fault” to a negative situation. When something “bad” happens, there is a cause of this negative event. When planes crash, it is usually the fault of the pilot , faulty equipment or faulty weather. When the stock market tanks, it is the fault of a bad jobs report, the fault of the Fed raising interest rates or the fault of corporate earnings being disappointing.

Now turning to the weight control arena, where does the “fault” exist? Is it the “fault” of the necessity of dual working parents not having the time to prepare proper meals for them/their kids? Is it the fault of fast food restaurants for getting our kids addicted on Happy Meals with movie characters? Or, is the “fault” internal to us, meaning that we are to blame for the 70% overweight/obesity rate in our country?

I believe the answer is that “fault” is not really a concept to apply to the weight control arena. There exists both environment factors and internal factors that contribute to the relative ease/difficulty of controlling weight. It is important to recognize the factors that are “correctible” (such as taking time to meal plan, shop well, etc) and other factors that are beyond our control (such as the genetic issue I discussed previously). Obviously, the point is to aggressively go after the factors that can be corrected and not spend negative energy angsting about the factors that are not.

Despite the genetic makeup, we all can still be successful with long-term weight control. And one psychological step is to eliminate time spent dwelling on “fault”.


Dr. Robert Posner One of the world’s leading medical weight loss researchers, Robert Posner, MD, operates his state-of-the-art weight loss clinic, Serotonin Plus, in the heart of Burke, Virginia, in the suburban Washington area.

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