They say it takes a village to raise a child. I would suggest that it is also going to take a village to overcome the biggest health crisis of our generation: Obesity.
If you find yourself wanting to join the fight, know that there are myriad ways to participate – because there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to weight loss.
Through my 20 years of working with the front-line defenders of health and wellness, I have noticed the importance of treating obese people as individuals. Each person is going to find lasting success from different sources, which is why it is vital that we support and maintain a multitude of options for weight loss. Banding together as a community with our varying approaches will allow us to meet the unique needs of each person we treat.
As you look at where you could successfully contribute to the cause, here are some of the approaches that I have observed to be extremely helpful for individuals wanting to lose weight.
The “Group Support” Approach.
Could you offer a source for group support? Many people find lasting success in programs based on group support. Accountability and reinforcement from others fighting the same battle can be very empowering and sometimes fosters relationships that can last for years. In fact, I have a friend that has continued socializing with her weight loss friends for decades! As you can imagine, this has strengthened her resolve to keep the weight off long term.
One thing to keep in mind if you take a Group Support approach is to factor in the long-term plan. If your program includes formal group treatment that will eventually come to an end, help your clients to create a foundation of group support with their family and friends so they can continue being successful after the program ends.
The “Knowledge-Building” Approach.
Maybe you can affect change by providing a knowledge base for people wanting to lose weight. A study published in the Journal of American Dietetics reported that among obese and overweight low-income mothers, those who were taught nutrition education were more likely to lose weight. Providing an understanding of basic energy balance and what qualifies as a “healthy” food choice could be someone’s missing link that leads to success.
You can also become a source of knowledge by providing an in-depth analysis of your client’s body. Conducting analyses like metabolic testing, body composition and keytone testing creates an opportunity to teach your client about weight loss within the context of their own body. These tailored and extremely personal conversations become a powerful and motivational tool in their weight loss journey.
The “Structured” Approach.
Some people benefit enormously from programs that remove the obstacles of overwhelming food choices. You could consider creating a program that is strictly structured, which for many people can simplify the process of adjusting to healthy serving sizes and better nutrition.
For example, let’s look at Amy Shapiro, RDN and founder of Real Nutrition in New York City. She created personalized nutrition programs that use pre-prepared frozen meals. I imagine this approach has been a powerful solution for the busy individual who is too busy to shop and cook, frequently defaulting to unhealthy fast food. I also think it’s important to note how Amy believes in the solution she is offering. “What I love most is that frozen meals contain built-in portion control,” she says. “That is important for many people.”
The “Get Moving” Approach.
Maybe your expertise involves getting people up and moving. For some people, moving from inactive to active is just the ticket they need to make lifestyle changes.
According to the National Weight Control Registry, 94% of those who are successful at losing weight have increased their physical activity. So get your clients on the move! You could let them know that each day they exercise will increase their calorie burn for that day, making their dietary efforts more effective. Additionally, regular exercise helps maintain and increase lean body mass, which can increase the number of calories they burn naturally each day (also known as their metabolic rate).
Remember that you don’t have to invite them to be a gym addict or fitness freak. In fact, the most frequently reported form of activity is walking! This means your approach can be as simple as getting them up and out of the chair.
The “Medical Necessity” Approach.
Under normal conditions, eating right and exercising are usually enough to start reducing excess pounds. But if a person continues gaining weight despite these positive changes, it may be time to see a doctor. If you are a physician, this could be your opportunity to step in.
When exercise and diet changes aren’t working, it could mean there’s something going on behind the scenes that will require medical help. As a physician, you can consider becoming Board Certified in Bariatric Medicine and Bariatric Surgery, so that you are uniquely qualified to screen for abnormalities, diagnose conditions and create specific treatment plans.
Support the Weight Loss Community
I believe the key to fighting obesity will be to support each other in our community of varying approaches to weight loss. We need to remember that we are all on the same team fighting the same enemy. Let’s not battle over the “correct” way to fight obesity. Instead, let’s learn more about each approach, without being afraid to recommend clients to programs with approaches that might be better tailored to their unique needs.
Let’s rally together and support success wherever we see it. We can win the obesity fight together!