Kristie Alley and the Problem of Obesity and Dieting

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Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Recently, the media reported that 58 year old actress, Kristie Alley had gained 83 pounds and reported that she found it very disgusting. Her’s is a case that is important for all men and women who struggle with obesity.

For three years, the actress was a spokesperson for Jenny Craig, the weight loss program. During that time she lost 73 pounds and was down to a weight of approximately 145. That is why she was shocked that she not only regained what she lost but added extra pounds to the initial amount. In many ways this illustrates the problem of dieting. It is common for people to enjoy success when dieting but to regain even more to what they had originally weighed. Yet, people similar to Ms Alley keep on using the diet method. This does not imply that losing weight is easy. However, the weight issue must be looked at from several points of view.


There have been a number of published articles reporting that obesity, like many other things in life, is deeply influenced by genetics. The fact that obesity may run in families does not mean that people should surrender and not try to maintain a healthy weight. It just means that it is important to be realistic in setting goals for weight. Then, too, because diets ultimately seem to fail in the long run, it is important to focus on other and, perhaps more important, weight loss methods.

For example, Ms. Alley admitted that after her ties to Jenny Craig were severed, she put a sudden and complete halt to her exercise program in addition to no longer monitoring what she ate. She is now promising to hire a personal trainer and lose all the weight  and reach her personl goal of 144 pounds.

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Her behavior is a good example of the saying that "If you always do what you did, you always get what you got." So, the endless cycle of diet, exercise, weight loss and weight gain will continue, accompanied by self hatred. Ms. Alley describes herself as "disgusting" as a result of weight gain. Over eating and bingeing often brings with it depression and lowered self esteem. There are also fears that, as a result of obesity. the person feels out of control.  

Of course, for Ms Alley, weight and appearance are important for her as a celebrety and entertainer. Yet, this also reflects the problem that affects women in general and some men. Many women focus so much attention on image or appearance that they neglect good health. The simple fact is that exercise is enormously important to maintaining good health and weight. No, this does not mean that people who exercise will become skinny. Perhaps there is too much focus on "skinny."

In a recent blog I reported the fact that certain people become stigmatized and rejected and isolated. Among these people are the obese. The reason is they are viewed as overly self indulgent people who greedily eat everything is site. We now know this is not true because this is where genetics comes to play a large role. Obesity is a medical problem and simply not the result of being greedy with food. The tendency to be judgemental  and rejecting of those who are over-weight is unfair to them and justs gives more credence to this push to be skinny. It also overlooks the fact that being skinny can be a source of health problems as much as being heavy.

So, for Ms. Alley and everyone struggling with obesity, the idea is to focus on good nutrition and exercise. By denying ourselves the foods we love because we are dieting is to set up a situation that leads directly to bingeing. No, one should not eat ice cream sundays everday, but, once every couple of months hurts no one. Ms. Alley and all of us over the age of 50 also need to recognize that our metabolism has changed since we were 20 and that is why exercise and good nutrition are so very important.

Warning: Before starting an exercise program be sure to consult with your physician if you have any health problems. In addition, there are excellent nutritionists who specialize in eating disorders and can be of great help in planning meals and exercise that make sense.

Your comments and opinions are welcome and encouraged.

Keep Reading By Author Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.
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