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Which Weight Loss Motivator Works Best?

A major frustration working with people who say they have a “weight” problem is getting their goal to be improving their health rather than losing weight. For success, research tells us that this is the direction to go in.

This study says it all: “The Weight-Inclusive versus Weight-Normative Approach to Health: Evaluating the Evidence for Prioritizing Well-Being over Weight Loss” by Tylka, Annunziato, Burgard, Daníelsdóttir, Shuman, Davis, and Calogero (Journal of Obesity, vol. 2014 (2014), Article ID 983495, 18 pages, http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/983495). “This review evaluates two methods of working within patient care and public health: the weight-normative approach (emphasis on weight and weight loss when defining health and well-being) and the weight-inclusive approach (emphasis on viewing health and well-being as multifaceted while directing efforts toward improving health access and reducing weight stigma).”

“Data reveal that the weight-normative approach is not effective for most people because of high rates of weight regain and cycling from weight loss interventions, which are linked to adverse health and well-being. Its predominant focus on weight may also foster stigma in health care and society, and data show that weight stigma is also linked to adverse health and well-being. In contrast, data support a weight-inclusive approach, which is included in models such as Health at Every Size for improving physical (e.g., blood pressure), behavioral (e.g., binge eating), and psychological (e.g., depression) indices, as well as acceptability of public health messages.”

They conclude: “The weight-normative approach is not improving health for the majority of individuals across the entire weight continuum . . . we know that weight loss through dieting is not sustainable over time for the vast majority of higher-weight individuals and is linked to harmful consequences. Therefore, we argue that it is unethical to continue to prescribe weight loss to patients and communities as a pathway to health, knowing the associated outcomes—weight regain (if weight is even lost) and weight cycling—are connected to further stigmatization, poor health, and well-being. The data suggest that a different approach is needed to foster physical health and well-being within our patients and communities.”

Based on this study, here are my questions: What makes you hold onto weight loss rather than improving your total health as a primary goal? What will cause you to shift your emphasis? How could you begin today to think more about improving your health than about shedding pounds? What specific thoughts would you change and what actions would you take?

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