5 Ways Weight Loss Programs Have Changed in Recent Years


a man with a Weight Loss Programs
Weight Loss Programs Have Evolved in Recent Years

The idea of the body beautiful isn’t new. The Ancient Greeks had their Olympic athletes compete nude, with the muscular lean bodies of men and curvier bodies of women – a little fat signified wealth in a time where many lived in abject poverty – surprisingly close to the ‘ideal body standard’ of today. Likewise, the idea of the relationship between food and weight gain has been around since the Antiquities. Although, the Roman solution of avoiding weight gain by simply vomiting food back out after a feast would now be regarded as a dangerous eating disorder. 

Modern weight loss plans got their start in the 19th Century. French gastronome Jean Barthelme Brillat-Savarin noticed that carnivorous animals like wolves and birds of prey were rarely fat, and neither were herbivorous animals in the wild. He theorized that farm animals gained weight by being fed on grains and potatoes, and created the first low-carb diet. However, quackery abounded – some, like Dr. Matthew Kellogg (yes, the breakfast cereal), spouted the benefits of frequent enemas – and as late as 1903 (by which time the US Government was publishing official advice about balancing protein, carbs, and fat) one could purchase La Parle obesity soap, which promised to wash the weight away for a then-princely sum of $1. 

In 1918, Dr. Lulu Hunt Peters published "Dieting and Health: With Key to the Calories”, introducing the public to monitoring caloric intake as a means of controlling weight. It was a smash hit, selling two million copies, and is still in print now. In the last century, the power has been in our hands. Let’s take a look at how it’s been shaped. 

1. Reframing

In times past, obesity was thought to be sinful, and a moral failing. The famous ‘Black Dog’ Dr Johnson referred to his depression as, was caused by his inability to resist overeating. Being overweight was oftentimes a lonely pursuit. While fatphobia still exists within society, weight loss programs are actively encouraged, and there’s now a much more positive mindset around losing weight than the more austere attitudes of yesteryear.  

2. Support

 The demystifying of how people gain and lose weight led people to call on their most powerful resource; themselves. In the late 1940s, support groups with weekly meetings for those losing weight started forming around America. In the days of social media, one can join any number of online forums and Discord groups to trade tips and share successes. It works. A British study showed people in group programs lose more weight than those solely doing one-to-one sessions with a doctor or coach. 

3. Choices

We are surrounded by food more now than at any time in history. And while that comes with drawbacks – it’s impossible to turn on a TV without seeing tempting ads for snacks, causing cravings and increasing ‘food noise’ - the modern supermarket enables those on weight loss programs to make healthy meals easier than ever before. Do you need some mangoes? In Minneapolis? In February? Over 40 years ago, that wouldn’t have been possible. Now, it’s as easy as ordering a home delivery via an app. 

4. Medical weight loss

Those of us of a certain age may remember newspaper ads for ‘diet pills’ of questionable provenance. However, in the 2020s, medical weight loss has become a reality. GLP-1 medications like Wegovy and Zepbound work by slowing the movement of food through the body - keeping the user fuller for longer - and working with the brain to alleviate food cravings, dampening the food noise in the mind that can lead to being unable to resist bad choices. GLP-1 programs are only open to those with a BMI that classes them as obese, and the medication must be prescribed. However, they work, with studies showing Wegovy users losing an average of around 5lbs per month. 

5. Technology

Weight loss programs have been quick to get on the tech train. The two concepts have always been linked – in 1833 Dr. Gustav Van Zander debuted a belt-driven massager that wrapped around the body and allegedly jiggled the fat off. Now we can point our phone at a restaurant menu and get nutritional breakdowns of the offerings. Every second of a fitness regime can be tracked by apps like MyFitnessPal and games like Zombies, Run! and Marvel Move put the fun into running to help with motivation. As our worlds are increasingly dominated by technology, it, weight loss programs are increasingly fitting into our new digital lifestyles.  

Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same. Do we still see fad diets? Absolutely. Is the best advice to find the solution that works around your lifestyle? It is. However, the options and sophistication that now guide those solutions can now be tailored to every individual. 

Inveigle Magazine

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