Vail Daily column: Look at harsh realities to fight obesity |

Vail Daily column: Look at harsh realities to fight obesity

Discussing the obesity epidemic drives very strong emotions to the surface for me. I continually charge the masses with my thoughts on the matter. I have been told that I seem angry when discussing the subject. I am angry. I am outraged that we have this overwhelming problem in our world.

What makes me most angry is that we have been lied to. We have followed the herd into a wide destructive gate; we believe that we are all on the wrong program, and we finally have a solution that will deliver. Our weight problems will be gone once and for all if we just follow the “program.”

I went back to Ohio for a few days last weekend. I had an hour to kill Sunday afternoon and wandered into a bookstore. The entire left wall in the bookstore was dedicated to health and dietary literature. Twenty five percent of the material in the store was dedicated to this problem folks.


Are we getting anywhere? We are not. Do these programs work? They do not. All of these books on the wall — every last one of them will help you lose weight. Losing weight isn’t the problem, people. It’s the behaviors that lead to weight gain, and the actions that go unchecked that inevitably lead to gaining all of the weight back. It’s the behaviors.

I want to discuss a few things today. First, I want to discuss the problem with specific programs and why they don’t work. Finally, I want to discuss these behaviors that lead to problems in the first place.

Many years ago a researcher wanted to study why people will follow others for no particular reason. He set bananas on a high shelf and introduced a monkey into the room. As the monkey ascended the high shelf to grab the reward, the researcher hosed the monkey with water — an action that apparently really upsets monkeys.

The researcher introduced monkeys one-by-one. Profoundly, none of the successive monkeys were sprayed with water, yet all of the monkeys would pull on the next introduced monkey as he attempted to climb the wall towards the bananas. Not one of the monkeys really knew why they were pulling on the monkey as he climbed the wall — only the original monkey who was conditioned with water knew what the consequence would be.


Science books change year after year. Research now indicates that gluten, meat, sugar and dairy are partly responsible for the obesity epidemic. In 1987, fat was the enemy, and Snack Wells low-fat cookies and pastries were top sellers and overwhelmed the consumer with hope. In 1999, carbs were coined the deadliest food product on the market, and companies were scrambling to stock the shelves with enough low-carb pasta and protein packed dessert options to keep the consumer happy.

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” Mark Twain would be laughing today with all of this silliness. Stop pulling on the proverbial monkey and start being real with yourself and repeat after me, “There is nothing new here folks.” This stuff didn’t work then, and it’s not working today.


The behaviors of the obese aren’t so dissimilar from the behaviors of the slightly overweight. Food is treated like a drug that lights up the reward center in the brain and stimulates a short lived high that replaces other things that ought to bring love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. What are you really hungry for?


Time and again, obese humans aren’t fat because they are physically hungry. People who struggle with their weight aren’t lazy, and they don’t have a slower metabolism, or are cursed with bad genetics.

Diets don’t work because they don’t change the fundamental behavior; food is treated as a pleasure mechanism abused in excess to fulfill a deep emotional or spiritual need within. Fix the deep wound, and stop stuffing your face because you’re sad, lonely, depressed, bored or whatever else is gnawing at you. A harsh reality that seems aggressive and not-so-nice from yours truly? That would be correct.

A final note of encouragement. Remember that this problem isn’t necessarily complicated. A simple problem with simple strategies. Simple doesn’t mean easy though. With that said, ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t; you’re right.’ Henry Ford said this once. Now make it happen. Have a great week!

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at or 970-401-0720.

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