We have all been told that losing weight comes down to diet and exercise. However, recent studies show that effective treatment is more complex and our attitudes about obesity could be creating barriers to treating the disease. The stigma surrounding obesity is actually preventing patients from both seeking out and receiving proper care from healthcare professionals. The good news is that we may be able to provide improve obesity management programs simply by changing perceptions about obesity.
Studies have looked at the attitudes and behaviors of three different groups of people to better understand how we perceive and treat obesity:
People with Obesity
While 65% of people with obesity believe that it is a disease, a full 82% believe that losing weight is totally their responsibility. This attitude prevents people from taking advantage of employer wellness programs, speaking with healthcare providers about their weight and making follow-up appointments with the physicians after an obesity diagnosis.
Perhaps even more dangerous, is the fact that people with obesity don’t recognize that their disease will lead to other health problems down the road. The majority of people understand that even a 10% loss in weight would be beneficial, but at the same time they don’t seem to fully grasp that ignoring this disease will affect their health and shorten their lifespan.
A full 80% of healthcare professionals believe that obesity is a complex disease, however, they are reluctant to discuss this issue with patients. The top reasons for not broaching the subject include: lack of time during the appointment, more important issues to address and a belief that the patient isn’t motivated to lose weight.
Over 50% of doctors consider obesity at least as serious as other chronic health conditions and the vast majority are comfortable talking with patients about weight management, yet these conversations still aren’t happening.
While 64% of employers reported recognizing obesity as a disease, almost half didn’t think they shouldered any of the responsibility for helping treat the disease. Employers also had highly inflated perceptions of how helpful and effective their wellness programs were for employees.
Ultimately, people with obesity want to treat their disease, but they think that the responsibility is theirs alone. Meanwhile, healthcare providers and employers are under the assumption that people with obesity don’t actually want to lose weight and they are too embarrassed to seek out help. These attitudes help perpetuate the stigmas around obesity and prevent patients from getting the support they need.
How to Change Attitudes
Education may be the best solution to changing attitudes about obesity so that people with obesity, healthcare providers and even employers can have conversations and take action before additional health problems arise. Healthcare professionals need to prioritize obesity treatment and encourage patients to attend follow-up appointments after a diagnosis. Surveys show that patients are motivated to lose weight and don’t find medical conversations about their weight embarrassing, so it is a matter of starting a dialogue, providing information and resources and offering continuing support.
Can You Recognize a Weight Loss Scam?
Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight isn’t easy, but you might not know that from the ads you see on TV, the internet and social media. There are all sorts of products on the market that claim to be able to help you lose weight fast without having to put in the hard work of dieting and exercise. When it comes to identifying whether a product is a scam or marketers are making false claims, sometimes your best line of defense is listening to your gut. As the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. To help you avoid scams, we’ve identified some common claims to look out for.
Creams that claim to burn fat
While it would be nice if we could simply apply a cream and activate fat burning, this solution flies in the face of everything we know about weight loss and the human body. Significant and lasting weight loss means adjusting your diet and burning calories through exercise. There is no way around the science. Also, if weight loss was as easy as applying a cream, wouldn’t everyone be doing it?
Supplements that help you lose weight
When it comes to supplements, you have to be careful to read the fine print. The headline may claim that eating a certain product or swallowing a pill before a meal will help you lose weight, but the fine print will often specify that the product should be used in conjunction with a diet plan that limits your caloric intake to 900 calories per day. At that rate, you will lose weight, but only because you are at a caloric deficit. There is no way to prove that the supplement is having any affect.
You also want to stay away from any product that claims you can lose significant weight without making any adjustments to your diet and lifestyle. Advertisers will often try to sell their product by saying that you can still eat your favorite foods and enjoy rich desserts or that their supplement will boost your metabolism, but there is no way to prove these claims.
Again, if results were guaranteed and a product could work for everyone, wouldn’t more people be using it? Stay away from any products that claim every consumer will experience success. Every individual is going to have a different weight loss journey and it is impossible for a single solution to deliver results across the board.
Advertisers and marketers are savvy when it comes to luring in consumers and selling their products. They know how to speak to people’s pain points and offer attractive solutions, but it is your job to be a discerning consumer and be on the lookout for common tricks of the trade. If you aren’t sure whether a weight loss product or service is legitimate, take a second to stop and listen to your gut. You probably already know the answer.
First and foremost, it is important to recognize that obesity is a chronic disease that should be properly diagnosed and treated. People who suffer from obesity may also experience diabetes, arthritis and heart disease, which makes it important to address the underlying causes of obesity and work to maintain a healthy weight.
What are the Causes of Obesity?
When we take in more calories than we need, the excess energy is stored as fat. Ingesting more calories than your body burns will result in weight gain.
As an industrial society, we move less and burn fewer calories than previous generations. At the same, time, we have been taught that food is a source of enjoyment. We often use it as a reward or to celebrate events. These factors have helped contribute to culture where we eat more and burn less.
Your feelings of hunger and fullness are controlled by a complex system that involves the brain, hormones, the gastrointestinal tract and other vital organs. If there is a glitch in the system, your body could be sending signals to eat more, which can lead to weight gain.
Your genetic makeup can make you predisposed to weight gain and obesity. While this trait is passed down from your parents, it is only one factor in your overall health, which means that you can still lose weight.
Many medications can influence how well the different systems in your body are able to communicate. While weight gain can be an unwelcomed side effect of some medications, you can take steps to mitigate the effects.
Eating food, especially those high in fat, sugar and salt, triggers the pleasure center in our brains and it feels like we are rewarding ourselves. Tastes and smells can even bring back pleasant memories, which only adds to the experience of eating. It is important to recognize when we are consuming to fuel our bodies and when we are eating for pleasure and not get carried away with emotional eating.
The Effects of Losing Weight
While losing weight is a challenge, it can be even more difficult to avoid regaining the weight. As you lose weight, your body goes through changes that can actually work against you. Many people will experience lower metabolism, an increased sense of hunger and hormonal shifts that encourage weight gain. This can make it difficult to maintain weight loss in the long-term. That is why it is important to be aware of these factors and make a commitment to changing your lifestyle in order to achieve lasting weight loss and better overall health.
Benefits of Losing Weight
While obesity is considered a chronic disease that can’t necessarily be cured, you can follow these steps to help manage the disease:
- Combine a low-calorie diet with regular exercise
- Monitor your weight
- Avoid being sedentary
- Eat breakfast
As you work towards getting your obesity under control, keep in mind that losing just 5-10% of your body weight will significantly improve your health. Start with small goals focus on health and not just your weight.