If I had a nickel for every article I’ve seen giving tips on how to obtain a better body for swimsuit season & wedding dresses…well, I’d still be writing this article – but I’d be writing it from my own private island. These articles appeal to people who want to believe weight loss is just 5 Simple Steps Away and guarantee the short-term results they want. But unfortunately, a great deal of the people looking to lose weight are not simply trying to lose weight. They may not know it, but what they’re really doing – in an ineffective, counter-productive manner – is treating obesity and overweight.

You may be asking yourself, “Aren’t they aren’t they technically the same thing?” To which I would answer, “Technically no, they’re not.”

Getting technical allows us to understand why they’re not the same thing. It’s a distinction that goes beyond the kind of semantic hair-splitting every professional in every profession loves to prattle on about. In this instance, getting technical is about applying the right skills to accomplish the right goal. If we want to be semantically correct when we talk about treating obesity and overweight as opposed to dropping a few pounds for a wedding or trip to the beach, then the correct phrase would be:

“I need to lose some weight – and keep it off for good.”

But nobody ever says that.

Losing is About Losing, Not About Long-term Health

Losing weight is just that: losing weight. Typically it’s done by whatever means necessary, for a specific purpose, and for a particular period of time. “Whatever means necessary” is an accurate description of the absurd lengths to which the 60-billion-dollar diet industry will go to get people to buy into the endless stream of trend upon fad upon craze they push year in and year out. It goes hand in hand with what the fitness industry does. The professional marketers in both industries are woefully short on scruples, but never lack for creativity. Every day there’s a new superfood or herbal extract that promises to unlock your weight loss potential and get your abs ripped like a pro athlete.

A weight loss effort, program, or system that limits or defines its approach by imposing a random, external schedule or timeframe is fatally flawed. Not only from a medical and scientific standpoint, but also from a practical one. Follow this logic: if we do something to achieve a result, then when we stop doing that thing, the results will also stop. That’s sound reasonable, and applies to things in life of which we all have experiential knowledge. Yet, for some reason, where weight loss is concerned, most of us fail to remember that simple cause and effect relationship.

We’re blinded by the headlines and promises, and don’t realize the diet or exercise regime we tried out was never meant to be permanent – because nearly all of them are about weight loss and not obesity/overweight treatment.

There’s another thing to consider: the toll these short-term plans take on our emotions and motivation. The more often we repeat short-term weight loss fads, the more often we regain the weight. When we go in with the thought, “I only have to eat this way until the vacation/wedding/spring formal” but know the weight will come back, the more difficult it becomes to do it again the next time and event pops up on the calendar. The whole process becomes trying, tedious, and ultimately have a harder time bringing ourselves to endure the change for a short-term reward.

Treatment is About Long-term Health, Not Just Losing Weight Right Now

It’s More Than a Number

Treating obesity focuses very little on the weight – meaning the number on a scale – because the techniques are research-backed and evidence-based. The results are known, predictable results of the correct application of the techniques. When the correct efforts are made in designated areas, weight adjustment is a foregone conclusion. Obesity treatment relies heavily on understanding how variables such as diet, movement, sleep, and mental health play a crucial role in the condition. Successful treatment relies on working them in a targeted and focused manner to achieve optimum, sustainable health.

No Two Cases are Alike

It’s also important to understand individual differences. Some people have a difficult time controlling their weight, while others don’t. If you’re not overweight and do little to control your weight, there’s a good chance you’re not genetically predisposed to developing obesity. Here are two contrasting statistics to help drive this point home: 1.6% of adolescents in the U.S. have a binge eating disorder, but only two-thirds of them are overweight. Meaning that despite a much greater food intake, genetic factors such as their number of fat cells, metabolism, and endocrine function prevent them from gaining excessive weight. Conversely, many people who try to control their weight cannot do it, and remain obese. Those people most certainly have a genetic predisposition toward obesity, and they’re likely to remain obese whether they have a binge-eating disorder, try a thousand and one commercial “weight-loss” plans, or do nothing at all.

Consistency Over Time Works Best

A profound difference between weight loss and obesity treatment is the ongoing nature of obesity treatment. When a person accepts obesity as a chronic medical condition rather than extra weight they caught like a cold and once it’s gone it won’t be back, then they’re ready to make real progress. They’re open to understanding daily regimens are for life. They’re not in place only until they hit the target weight or dress size. Many people think that they can lose weight, then resume real life. That’s weight loss, not obesity treatment. With obesity treatment, the new daily routines are real life – and there’s no going back. This fact can seem overwhelming and stressful at first, but in the long run daily routines serve a greater purpose: they eliminate rollercoaster diet cycles and heal the havoc they inflict on mind, body, and soul. It takes an immeasurable toll to continuing to celebrate a victory only to internalize its subsequent loss over and over again.

You Can’t Spend the Same Dollar Twice –

But You Can Lose the Same Pound Over and Over

In the HBO documentary “Weight of the Nation,” a mature woman answers a question about how much weight she’s lost in her lifetime.

“Probably, 400 pounds,” she says, “but it was the same 40 pounds at least 10 times.”

This is someone who had successfully lost weight multiple times – at least ten by her count – but whatever she did to lose the weight, she stopped doing. And the weight came back. I believe humans have a limited number of these trials in them before they won’t bring themselves to risk trying again. It may be a different number for each individual, but once that number is exhausted, there won’t be any more.

Do You Want to Lose Weight…or Treat Obesity?

Your success depends on how you answer that question. Because you need to understand what it is you’re really doing before you allocate your physical, emotional, and spiritual energy to doing it. The distinction between the two and the declaration of intent is critical. If you want to lose weight, there are literally hundreds of ways to do that. But if you’re trying to control your condition permanently,  it takes a concrete acceptance that you have a condition and a commitment to changing daily habits over time. That combination of acceptance and commitment opens the door to so many more resources, understandings and accomplishments. And none greater than the accomplishment of your long-term health and wellness.