Taking on Obesity: Holly Wyatt at TEDxMileHigh (Full Transcript)

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? 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.” 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.

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