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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Kristie Alley and the Problem of Obesity and Dieting

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: May 11th 2009

 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.

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.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

    Reader Comments
    Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

    The problem is the MIND and Spirit - Carla Holland-Strange - Feb 2nd 2011

    I myself battled weight my entire life, tipping the scales at 350......... I even had weight loss surgery and gained it right back.  I looked like I was 100 years old when I was only 30....... but thru spiritual awakening I took it off and at 50 I look so much younger.  you can google my name I am all over the internet, I have been on many talk shows......... I eat anything I want! I drink wine anytime I want... I let go of the fears and guilts that weighted me down.... that is all she is doing holding onto those 2 things will hold on the pounds! I am an empath/intuitive/healer/lifecoach

    something to think about - Cherise - Sep 17th 2010

    You know, I am very interested if Kirstie Alley ever finds a way to lose weight.  People who make mean comments like costs in health care can be blamed on people who "refuse" to eat right and exercise do not understand that some people have more difficulty losing weight than others.  I have been athletic my whole life.  I used to be 135lbs and now I am 215lbs.  I have gone to doctors, to Jenny Craig, tried the Slimfast plan, Acai/cleanse, Adkins, as well as good old fashion calorie counting--All in addition to excercise.  Lately I have tried the "500 calorie deficit/day=1lb/week" bit.  Basically you calculate your caloric intake to maintain, then factor in your daily activity level and calories burned.  Say you burn 200 calories for 30 minutes on the treadmill, so you would need to also deduct 300 calories for your diet that day.  And let me tell you, I eat whole grain, omega-3 infused, organic, gluten-free everything.  And guess what??  I gain about 10lbs/year on average.  I run three days/week, walk for an hour 2 days per week and do a 90-minute hot yoga (bikram).  I am strong, fast and flexible, but still 215lbs and rising!!  "Refuse to diet and exercise?" Don't think so.  People like us need help!  Many of us are aware that yo-yo dieting is not effective but unfortunately neither is the conservative approach involving subtle lifestyle changes over a span of years.  Something to think about before you insult us as a group of lazy pigs.

    People like us need help! - Cherise - Sep 17th 2010

    You know, I am very interested if Kirstie Alley ever finds a way to lose weight.  People who make mean comments like costs in health care can be blamed on people who "refuse" to eat right and exercise do not understand that some people have more difficulty losing weight than others.  I have been athletic my whole life.  I used to be 135lbs and now I am 215lbs.  I have gone to doctors, to Jenny Craig, tried the Slimfast plan, Acai/cleanse, Adkins, as well as good old fashion calorie counting--All in addition to excercise.  Lately I have tried the "500 calorie deficit/day=1lb/week" bit.  Basically you calculate your caloric intake to maintain, then factor in your daily activity level and calories burned.  Say you burn 200 calories for 30 minutes on the treadmill, so you would need to also deduct 300 calories for your diet that day.  And let me tell you, I eat whole grain, omega-3 infused, organic, gluten-free everything.  And guess what??  I gain about 10lbs/year on average.  I run three days/week, walk for an hour 2 days per week and do a 90-minute hot yoga (bikram).  I am strong, fast and flexible, but still 215lbs and rising!!  "Refuse to diet and exercise?" Don't think so.  People like us need help!  Many of us are aware that yo-yo dieting is not effective but unfortunately neither is the conservative approach involving subtle lifestyle changes over a span of years.  Something to think about before you insult us as a group of lazy pigs.

    Isn't It All About Health? - Cathy - Aug 19th 2009

    Isn't it all about health?  Some people can be heavier and in good health and that is usually genetic.  My family on both sides are heavy but not obese.  I think a lot of the diets just ruin one's system to the point that they can't lose weight anymore because their body is so mixed up.  When you endanger your health, there is an issue and frankly, I can't see how it is bearable to carry all that weight.  If you eat right and exercise and really educate yourself, you shouldn't be "obese" in my opinion without a medical condition.  I do get tired of the media picking at people though.  Counting calories and watching serving portions will shock you as if you check you're probably eating several servings, they have changed a lot of that stuff and sure it's 200 calories but check closely and see if the Little Debbie cake isn't 2 to a package with 1 being a serving and 2 being 400 calories.  Moderation.

    How about some sympathy - Anne Grethe Knutsen - Jun 26th 2009

    I am obese myself  beacuse of an eating disorder that I beleive I've got when I was young. I have had this all my life because some one said something that hurt me regarding my weight.  At that time I was just a few pound extra, but that person ruined my life using words.

    Obesy people are ill even if they are actresses and stars, they deserve sympathy, not this kind of comments.  The lack of this understanding is a worse illness.

    Try to think more about what you are writing.

    A New Weight Loss Brand by Kirstie Alley - Alecu - Jun 25th 2009

    Kirstie Alley announced she will launch her own weight loss program in 2009. I have read on Project Weight Loss - http://www.projectweightloss.com/index.php - about the new weight loss program that will help millions of people get rid of the extra fat. Those who are enrolled in a Jenny Craig weight loss program get their own “personal consultant.” Dieters can get assistance at the local Centre, do the program at home using the Jenny Direct At-Home Program, or get consultations via telephone. The main purpose of these consultations is to set the week`s challenges, menu plan, and review the successes.

    Kirstie Alley and Weight Loss. What gives? - Christin McDowell - May 12th 2009

    Kirstie is typical of many people who yo-yo diet but my main problem with her is that she portrays herself as a role model when in fact she is giving the wrong impression.  Yes she is now back to working out and dieting but in a way that most ordinary people cannot afford. She has also announced that she is launching her own weight loss plan.  So...

    My question is... What qualifies her to advise on weight loss? Does she truly understand nutrition? Does she understand exercise science? She's a fat actress who is playing out a role and is trying to cash in without the background or knowledge to offer legitimate advice.

    I made a short video on the subject of Kirstie Alley announcing she is developing her own weight loss plan. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgZlbsStnvI

    Asked whether she started her exercise regime when she said she was going to, she replied "No", then promptly stated that she lost 20lbs in 5 weeks.

    Lack of exercise and bad eating habits (obesity) kill more people that swine flu ever will. Billions of dollars are wasted every year in health care because people refuse to eat properly or exercise.

    Then you have people like Kirstie Allie performing a yo-yo weight gain/weight loss soap opera and will probably sell a million books. There's just no justice (or common sense) in the world today.

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