Update on Weight Loss and Weight Loss Surgery for Behavioral Professionals

Here are 5 recent articles about the obesity epidemic in America and emerging treatment trends that have implications for behavioral health professionals:

  • The New York Times published “Obesity Rises despite All Efforts to Fight It, US Health Officials Say,” on 11-12-15. This article reports on the latest obesity data, which finds an increase in the percent of American aduts who are obese in 2013 and 2014 compared to 2011 and 2012. Obesity is unchanged for young people aged 2 to 19.  Of course, this is concerning because there have been major efforts to promote healthier lifestyles for Americans. Obviously, many of the changes required to address the obesity epidemic are behavioral, and behavioral professionals who are knowledgeable about obesity and weight loss will be part of the wellness revolution that the US needs.
  • The New York Times published “Is Fat Stigma Making Us Miserable?” On 11-11-15. This article describes recent research that found that, even though obesity is increasing in the United States, Americans are less tolerant of people who are overweight. This study found an increase in “fat stigma” and messages of shame and blame about obesity. Clearly, these factors are unhelpful to people with weight problems, and bariatric professionals may need to help their patients who are overweight cope with these messages.
  • Bariatric surgery continues to have ongoing controversies, with many concerns not actually supported by research, but the concept of providing bariatric surgery to teens is probably the most controversial topic in the field. The Minneapolis Star Tribune published an article on 11-15-15, “Benefits of obesity surgery for teens outweighs risks, study says ” (update – online access to this article has been removed).  The article is a brief summary of some recent interesting research about positive outcomes for obese teens that have had bariatric surgery. At least one Minneapolis bariatric program is developing a track for teens, and I will post more on this when the program is up and running.
  • The New York Times also published an article, “Beware the Beer Belly”, on 11-10-15, which discusses limitations of the BMI and the benefits of using a different measure, the waist-to-hip-ratio, to assess health risk factors. The article discuss the risks of “central obesity,” often colloquially described as a “beer belly.” The article notes that people can have a normal BMI but an elevated waist-to-hip ratio, and this resulted in significant increase in their health risk factors. This information can be helpful for behavioral professionals who are working with people with weight and health concerns.
  • Finally, courtesy of Ken Pope’s prolific posting service, an article from Canadian broadcasting Company, “Child Obesity at Highest Level in Canada and US: Bark Is Bigger Than Bite from Government Obesity Proclamations, Scientists Says.” (update – the online link to this article has been removed) The article notes that public health efforts to educate people about obesity have not been very effective, and recommends behavioral preventative efforts as the most powerful way to address the problem. On expert stated, “The focus should be on keeping kids healthy through healthy, active lifestyles given the dismal success of treating obesity.” Once again, this obviously supports the need for behavioral health professionals to be involved with the obesity epidemic.
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