Vitalism Signs

By Rebecca Koch 

As regular readers know, I have something of a weight problem—but only if you consider putting on 80 (count ’em, 80!) pounds while learning the ropes at your first real desk job a problem. To be honest, when I first faced the fact of where I’d ended up on the scale, I couldn’t even say, “put on 80 pounds” without crying. To those of you who’ve never had weight issues, I can just imagine, while reading about someone who wasn’t fully aware of an 80-pound weight gain, you feel the same horrified incredulity that the rest of us feel when reading about those women who go into the bathroom with “indigestion” and come out with babies, adamantly claiming they had no idea they were pregnant for the past nine months. I assure you that, while I knew I had packed on a few pounds, I was equally shocked to discover the full extent of my denial. In fact, even lacking as I am in reproductive capability, I would have been no less shocked and appalled to look down and find an eight-pound baby as an 80-pound gain.

I’m only able to share any of this now because I’ve managed to shed 60 of those extra 80 pounds over the past several months. I’ve done it primarily by getting my food addiction under control using a framework* of behavioral changes such as cutting out sugar and other simple carbs, not skipping meals, journaling and accountability. I haven’t done any working out, per se, but have only increased activity in small ways, largely in the form of walking the new dog two or three miles over the course of a week, always choosing stairs over elevators and escalators, parking at the farthest end of the lot, etc. Having something of a familial tendency toward being overweight (and having lost and gained major weight once before using Atkins), I’m hopeful I’ve now found a common-sense lifestyle eating structure that I can use for the rest of my life. 


But common sense doesn’t enter into our society’s medical equation for weight loss. Every month, I receive a local magazine about all the events happening on my side of the county. The magazine, to all appearances, exists simply to provide a vehicle for businesses to target their advertising to those in the closest proximity. No surprises there. What is surprising, at least to me, are the types of services being advertised. I never knew there were so many dentists solely dedicated to providing patients with teeth so perfect and dazzlingly white that they could easily pass for dentures. And, from all the realtor ads, you’d never know that we were in the midst of the worst housing slump in history—you’d think everyone you know is looking to sell their homes at a substantial loss and move into a new one. Last but not least, there are the medical weight loss programs. In the last issue, there were no fewer than six such programs, all promising fantastic (though of course not typical) results—and drugs! Or surgery!


Now, I’ll admit that we contravene our bodies’ wisdom all the time—and eating is one of the easiest places to do it. Throughout our evolution, we have been designed for feast or famine because, before modern agriculture and food preservation, regularly alternating between feast and famine was our way of life. We ate plentifully when food was plentiful, packed on some fat and burned it off again when food wasn’t so plentiful. So, we’re designed to like fattening foods—eating fats is very satisfying all the way down to the deepest recesses of our “monkey brains.” So, deeply ingrained, often unconscious triggers drive those of us who are susceptible to the siren call of food, glorious food.


I know that we individually have to finally find the trigger that forces us to face our weight issues and begin to address them, but the troubling thing to me is the medical weight loss model. You’d almost think that their message is intentionally disempowering. “Oh, poor you,” the ads seem to say, “you’ll never be able to take off weight without drugs or surgery. You can’t do it on your own, using the wisdom of your body.” Even more troubling, however, are the so-called vital health practitioners who do the very same thing using “natural” products like HCG (or substitutes, since the use of HCG for weight loss is illegal) in completely unnatural ways. It’s tempting to succumb to the quick fix—and that’s what medicine is counting on. Let’s hope that vital health practitioners like chiropractors can stay the course, using their own unique expertise to help their patients improve their own health, whatever their weight, through the location, analysis and correction of vertebral subluxation—and not through medical-style symptom-driven attacks masked as “natural cures.”


*Gleaned from the more lifestyle-centered aspects of an approach offered by Thrive Weight Loss ( and not from their founder’s occasional contradictory lapses into “diet” territory.