Taking on obesity: Holly Wyatt at TEDxMileHigh

Taking on obesity: Holly Wyatt at TEDxMileHigh


Translator: Rhonda Jacobs
Reviewer: Amy Lu Kathy walked slowly into my office. She weighs 250 pounds,
she’s 5 foot 3 inches tall, and this gives her the diagnosis
of severe or morbid obesity. She’s tried everything. She’s tried lots of diets;
she’s actually joined a gym ten times; she’s tried resistance training;
she’s tried aerobic training; she has actually hired a personal trainer; she’s tried pills and potions
and medications; she’s even tried acupuncture
and hypnosis; and today she actually brings
a little pouch of powder. And when she comes in, she hopes that when she sprinkles it
on her food tonight, she actually will eat
a little less food tomorrow. And it’s not that Kathy
hasn’t been successful; actually, she’s been
successful many times. She’s lost 75 pounds
on three separate occasions. But each time
she actually gains it back, bringing her to where she is tonight. And tonight she’s frustrated,
she’s tearful, and she just doesn’t understand why she can’t succeed at something
that she wants to so badly. When I ask Kathy,
“Why do you want to lose weight? Why is it so important? Why do you do something
that seems so futile?” She actually looks at me and says, “I want to be the mother and the wife
that I’ve always dreamed I could be.” Kathy kind of goes through the motions. She’s really not able
to engage in her life. She has children that she really
wants to participate in their life but she really feels that emotionally,
physically, she’s tired. The relationship with her husband
isn’t what it should be. She does go to work,
but she just really gets through the day. And she really paints a picture
of someone that’s just getting by, someone that’s just doing the minimal, someone that just
is going through the motions. And unfortunately, Kathy is not uncommon. There’s 78 million adults
across the United States that are currently obese. What that means to everybody
out in the audience is that a third of the adults
in the United States today are currently at a body weight
that you would call obese. Currently they’re suffering,
just like Kathy is suffering. You know, a lot of you
may be sitting out there and you may be saying, “I’m not obese,
my family is not obese. Is this a problem that really affects me? Should I really
be thinking about this? Do I really need to talk
about this obesity epidemic? Do I need to be concerned
about this battle with obesity?” And I’m here tonight to tell you when you have a third
of the population that’s obese, when you have a third of the population
that’s just getting by, a third of the moms, a third of the dads,
a third of the workforce that is just going through the motions, everybody in this audience
needs to be scared. Everybody in this audience,
whether you’re obese or not, needs to think about this. Obesity just by its sheer numbers is in a place that can have
tremendous impact on everybody. It can totally change our society. It can change our global productivity, our global competitiveness,
and our economic prosperity. So everybody who’s sitting here tonight, whether you actually
battle obesity yourself, or whether maybe you don’t,
maybe you’ve been blessed, maybe you don’t have that battle, but I can tell you everybody,
regardless of whether you’re obese or not, needs to be concerned
about this obesity epidemic, because it can absolutely affect
every single person here. So, enough doom and gloom. Let’s talk about something
I like to talk about. Let’s talk about me! Right? (Laughter) I’ve been battling obesity, or talking about trying to win
this battle with obesity all my life. Right? Personally, I’ve been
challenged with obesity, but also professionally,
I decided very early in my career that I was going to be
an obesity specialist. Not only was I going
to help people lose weight, but I was going
to help them keep it off. We call that weight loss maintenance. I think about obesity 24/7. Some people actually say
that I’m “obsessed.” I personally like,
“passionately determined.” (Laughter) But it’s true: bottom line,
I love obesity. I don’t know why, but I love it. I think about it all the time, and there’s no doubt
this is what I was meant to do. This is no doubt what my passion is. So, my career has also been
a little bit different. I started learning from people
that were successful in losing weight. My idea was if I take people
who are successful, can I figure out what they’re doing
and help people who are not successful? Can I fix what’s wrong? I was able to do this because I had access
to the National Weight Control Registry. This is a group of individuals
who’ve been successful at losing weight and keeping it off. This registry was founded in 1994
by my mentor Dr. Jim Hill. He also believed that success
could help fix failure. So he really saw the glass half-full
and not half-empty, and he started this registry. And this is a group that’s lost
on average 60, 70 pounds, but more importantly to me, they’ve kept it off for seven
to eight years on average. A very unique group. When you look at this group
and you study them, and I was able to ask
a lot of questions, right? I was able to ask,
“What do they do?” I was able to ask,
“Do they actually exercise a lot, what do they eat, do they eat carbs,
do they eat fat, when do they exercise, how often do they exercise,
do they exercise in the morning, do they use diet drinks,
do they eat breakfast?” So from this group, I was really able to spend
the first ten years of my career determining what they do to succeed. This was great, right? I thought, okay, I’m going to take this. I know exactly what people need to do. I’m going to go into my clinic,
I’m going to tell them, and it’s going
to change everything, right? So I go into my office and I create a plan
and I say, “This is what you need to do.” I tell them exactly,
and guess what happens. Nothing. (Laughter) I learned, even though I’d spent
the first ten years doing this, that it’s really why
and how you lose weight, why you want to lose weight
and how you do it that’s most important. If you just know what, that’s good,
but that will ultimately fall flat. From this group I was able to actually go back to this National Weight Control Registry and I was actually able to go into their homes. I was able to really study
why these behaviors stick in these people when they don’t stick in other people. What I was actually able to determine
that has so much to do with mindset. These individuals don’t think about
losing weight the same way as others. They’ve decided that these lifestyles
mean so much more. They’ve tied it to a higher purpose. They’ve tied it to something
that they really value. It’s no longer just about weight loss,
it’s about a lot more. So I learned a lot from
the National Weight Control Registry, and this really led me to my second project that involves success And as many of you know, Colorado
is the leanest state in the nation. (Cheers & Applause) Right, and the media
is obsessed with that. I think everybody knows it because
there’s been a million stories on it. They all come to my office
and they want to know why. Initially I wasn’t obsessed with this. I kind of said,
“You know, come to my clinic, I’ve got a lot of obesity there, we really don’t need to say
that we’re the leanest state.” I didn’t really think
that that statistic was newsworthy. But the media is persistent,
and they liked the story. So eventually they wore me down, and I said, “You know what,
I’m an obesity researcher, I live in Colorado,
maybe I should actually study this.” So I did, and what I found
was truly amazing. What I found actually changed
the course of my career. I found that what people
are doing in Colorado, what our neighbors and friends
and families are doing, the behaviors are identical
to the National Weight Control Registry. Now, people in Colorado may be doing it
more intuitively, more naturally, they may not be doing it
so much for their weight, but when you line up the behaviors that I learned from the National
Weight Control Registry, they line up almost identically
to the people here in Colorado. This was great, because what people
had said to me before is, “Yes, Holly, you study this registry, and there’s 10,000 of these people
across the United States, but they’re the rare birds, right? They’re all over the place;
there’s a couple here, a couple there. They’re the weirdos, right? They’re the ones
that no one can do this. You can’t take what you learned
from the National Weight Control Registry and apply it to the general population. It just doesn’t work like that.” But suddenly now, I had
a whole state doing these behaviors, and that was truly amazing. So, I took what I learned from Colorado, and I took what I learned
from the National Weight Control Registry, and I really changed my path,
and I said I want to take my learnings and put it in a blueprint,
put it in a plan, so that others who are struggling
with their weight can also succeed. And that’s really how
the State of Slim was formed. So what did we learn? Number one:
you got to begin with the end. But, and this is critical,
don’t tell anybody you’re doing this. You got to start preparing
for weight loss maintenance when you’re actually losing weight. Now no one wants to do this. No one wants to talk about
weight loss maintenance, no one wants to prepare
for weight loss maintenance, and no one is going to buy or use
a blueprint or plan that has the word “Weight-Loss Maintenance” in it. I know that for sure. (Laughter) Right? But that’s absolutely what they need. Now, when I give a talk,
and I talk about weight loss, or I give a program
and say it’s a weight-loss program, this is what I get. When I give a talk
and I call it “Weight Loss Maintenance,” this is what I get. (Laughter) Crickets, nada, nothing. People will stand in line,
they’ll hunt me down, they’ll email me
to get in a weight-loss program. They won’t even show up
for a weight-loss maintenance program. And part of this I think is because
people really like to lose weight. They really want to stay
in that weight-loss period forever. You know, weight-loss is sexy
and fun, I always say. The scale is changing,
you get to buy new clothes, and everybody comes up and says, “What in the world are you doing?
You look wonderful!” You’re popular. Weight-loss maintenance
is like watching paint dry. (Laughter) Scale doesn’t change,
you don’t get to buy new clothes, and no one comes up to you and says, “Wow, you look exactly the same
as you did last year!” (Laughter) It just doesn’t happen. But what they actually need
is weight-loss maintenance. So what I determined we need to do, and this is what we do
in State of Slim, is I give them what they want,
which is weight loss, but I sneak in what they need. Kind of like maybe
if your kids don’t like vegetables, and you might grate some carrots
and you might stick it in their food and hope they don’t notice
those orange sprinkles. Or you take some spinach
and put it in your husband’s smoothie, and when he says,
“Why does this look green?,” you go, “Oh, I don’t know.” Don’t say that you don’t do that,
because I know you do. Number two: you prepare your body
and your mind for weight-loss maintenance. And it’s your body and mind. In terms of your body, it’s really about
getting that physical activity in. What we heard from
the National Weight Control Registry, or what we studied and found out, is you’ve got to do 60 to 70 minutes
of activity most days of the week. I know no one likes that number,
but that’s just the number. That’s required
to get your metabolism ready, not so you can lose weight, you can lose weight without doing this. I can guarantee you
that Kathy lost those 75 pounds; she didn’t have to do this activity. But if she wants to maintain her weight
after she loses it, this physical activity
has got to be there. It creates what we call
a metabolic flexibility, and it really allows you to be able
to eat and match what you’re burning, and it’s really essential to
prepare your body to be able to succeed. You also got to prepare your mind. With people in the registry,
we learned a lot about this. We learned a lot that mindset is critical. So, in Colorado,
we also have a great mindset. We call it a Colorado mindset. When I talk to people they say,
“We get to exercise,” right? We don’t have to exercise. When I talk to people in my clinic and I say, “Here are some of the behaviors
you’re going to have to do so that you can lose weight
and keep it off,” you would think
that I was making them miserable. They’re like, “Oh my gosh! I’ve to to weigh every day,
I’ve got to do all this activity, and all these things I can’t do? This is a miserable life!” But in Colorado, guess what? We like it! We’re happy, right? Same lifestyle; different mindset. The mindset is what is important. You also really got to figure out
what is your purpose, and you’ve got to bind that
to what’s going on and what these lifestyle changes are. Lastly, you’ve got to make it easy. You know, losing weight is hard. I’m sorry, losing weight is actually easy! Maintaining the weight loss is hard. So you’ve got to do things
that can make it easier in the long run. There’s a couple things you can do. One of the biggest things
is called routines and rituals. Everybody knows
that I am a potato chip addict. I’m obsessed with obesity,
and a potato chip addict, and I don’t know how that goes together. But it does. And one of the routines
and rituals I do is I never go down the potato chip
aisle in the grocery store. I say nothing good ever
happens to me on that aisle. (Laughter) And by putting that routine in place,
and by making it a routine and ritual, I’ve actually helped myself. I’ve made it easier so I can eat smarter
and healthy long term. You also have got
to work on your environment. The physical
environment’s important. In Colorado, we’re very lucky
that we have a great physical environment, but you can also create
that environment wherever you live. And your social environment
is just as important. The people you surround yourself with are the people that are going
to influence your behaviors. When your kids hang around
people that smoke, guess what happens? Same thing; when you hang around people that are doing the behaviors
that you want to do long term, it gets easier. And yes, it’s a little easier in Colorado,
because we’ve got more people doing it, but regardless of where you live,
you can find those people and you can bring them
into your social circle, and this prepares you
so that you can succeed long term. So in closing, I want to say, you know, I know
not everybody in Colorado is lean, but I do think more people are doing more of the behaviors
that are associated with success. I do think that Colorado
is in a very unique position, that we can take what we do here,
we can take what we’ve learned, and we can spread it to the rest
of the people in the country that need it. You know a lot of times
when I’m in my clinic and someone comes in and they say,
“I really want to lose weight,” but they’re not ready, they’re not willing
to do the things that are required. I often say, “What in the world
are you waiting on?” And when I go to conferences and I have the thought leaders
in this country not able to decide on what we should do, spinning their wheels and nothing
productive comes out of the meeting, I often leave there thinking,
“What in the world are they waiting on?” And tonight, standing here,
on this stage in Colorado and in front of an audience that I know understands the power
of being able to spread ideas, I think that maybe I’ve figured out
the answer to those two questions. Just maybe, perhaps,
everybody was simply [Weighting on Colorado] weighting on Colorado. (Laughter) Thank you. (Applause)

5 thoughts on “Taking on obesity: Holly Wyatt at TEDxMileHigh

  1. Gotta stop saying "right" so much, and actually start saying something meaningful. At least first 8 minutes are nothing but babble.

  2. Your patient didn't "try everything." You were never "challenged with obesity." You simply lack nutritional intelligence. I suggest you get more training (better training) or find a more suitable "passion." Try a starch-based diet. Read John McDougall, MD, Caldwell Esselstyn, MD, T Colin Campbell, Ph.D., and Michael Greger, MD. After understanding their message you can sort out the rest. Advocating "Weight loss maintenance" is an admittance you are failing. How about a HEALTHY lifestyle.

  3. lady ; I did listen to the end and I have to say that you are wrong on just about everything you said ; you need a life ;

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