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There are several approaches to treating obesity. Depending on the obesity treatment chosen, the help of various professionals may be appropriate, e.g. dietician, nutritionist, personal trainer, and medical professionals such as surgeons (in the cases of gastric surgery options).
Types of Obesity Treatment:
The main standard obesity treatments include:
- Dietary Approaches - There are many books, CDs, DVDs, websites and courses to explain and support people following various different weight-loss diets. Extreme "crash" diets are usually unwise, especially in cases of extreme obesity in which the person needs to lose a large amount of weight (as opposed to a generally healthy person just looking to lose perhaps a few lbs before a beach holiday). The safest long-term approach is usually to follow a healthy balanced diet while also undertaking an appropriate amount of physical exercise - for an overall healthy lifestyle. People who are very overweight, e.g. obese or even morbidly obese often need, and at least benefit from, the support of a professional qualified in diet and nutrition and ideally able to maintain regular contact to provide on-going support and motivation.
- Physical Activity - It is widely accepted that increasing the amount of exercise you take is an effective way to lose weight - especially when combined with an appropriate healthy balanced diet designed for weight-loss. However, physical activity should be planned and undertaken with careful consideration of the body's abilities and limitations. Medical practitioners or professional fitness trainers may be able to suggest suitable exercise regimes that take into account initial fitness level and any relevant medical conditions or injuries e.g. heart or joint conditions. Some people start by increasing the time they spend taking gentle exercise such as walking or gentle cycling. People who are reasonably fit despite being obese may be able to safely incorporate higher intensity exercise into their daily or weekly routines.
Examples of types of exercise that may be possible and appealing to some people include:
- Walking incl. e.g. gentle walking, hiking, walking upstairs, "power walking", long-distance walking, dog walking
- Cycling either indoors on a fixed gym-style "cycle" or outside on a real bicycle or tricycle.
- Swimming e.g. lessons at a local pool, speed or distance training, outdoor sea or river swimming
- Yoga, Pilates, or similar
- Personal Training e.g. at a local gym
- Slimming Clubs - Losing weight via a healthy combination of diet and appropriate physical exercise is often recommended where possible but can require considerable determination and self-discipline. There are many organizations that plan and host regular local meetings at which people who are actively trying to lose weight can meet and support each other in various ways. These may include a healthy competitive spirit, congratulating those who have made progress, encouraging those who are struggling and sharing tips, recipes and encouragement. Groups do not suit everyone but have proved beneficial to some people.
- Counselling / Psychological Support - As mentioned among the causes of obesity, stress and management of emotions can play a significant role in weight gain. Some people benefit from help to identify the situations or events that can result in them eating excessively and help to overcome such responses or habits.
- Drug Therapies - Different weight loss drugs work in different ways, such as
- to suppress appetite
- to increase metabolic rate - e.g. via use of amphetamines. These are generally only available under medical supervision. As long-term use of amphetamines is addictive, careful monitoring and additional use of other long-term approaches such as lifestyle changes is important.
- Weight Loss Surgery - There are several different types of weight loss surgery, some of which are reversible and some of which are not. Specialist weight loss surgeons can provide personal advice about the options, such as:
- Jaw wiring - whose purpose is to prevent the consumption of solid food in order to reduce calorie intake. Jaw wiring apparatus consists of orthodontic brackets attached to the teeth, with wire wrapped around or through the brackets, which are arranged so as to suspend the lower jaw in a semi-closed, partially movable, resting position permitting some jaw movement and relatively clear speech, but not consumption of solid foods. The wiring is removable so this a less drastic obesity treatment than gastric surgery.
- Gastric band surgery - in which a special band is placed around the upper part of the stomach, dividing the stomach into two so that food passes from the oesophagus into the small part of the stomach above the band and less food can be consumed before the person feels full. Food then gradually passes through to the rest of the stomach below the band and is digested as normal. The position of gastric bands can be adjusted after surgery - to change the amount of food that can be eaten.
- Gastric bypass surgery - often in the form of an operation called a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass in which the stomach is divided into two, creating a small upper stomach pouch such that food bypasses the main part of the stomach and the upper part of the small intestine.
Some less conventional but widely advertised supporting approaches include:
- Hynotherapy - The mind has a significant effect on the body so it makes sense to develop a positive attitude and to expect to succeed at important challenges. Reports of the success (or otherwise) of hypnosis or hynotherapy for weight loss vary. Standard advice does not include hypnotherapy alone as an obesity treatment. However, there are many hypnotherapy practitioners as well as CDs and other products offering weight loss help of this type. It is certainly an option to try, though perhaps in addition to the obesity treatments mentioned above, such as diet and exercise.
- Herbal Products - There are a wide range of "weight loss" teas, pills and supplements available for sale in health shops and online. Some people claim success using these approaches. Obviously it is important to understand whatever drugs, medications or supplements one takes - herbal products being no exception. If working with a nutritionist or dietician he/she may be able to advise about use of such products. It makes sense to be especially concerned about anything that claims success as an obesity treatment irrespective of lifestyle considerations such as a healthy diet and sufficient physical exercise.
- Residential "Weight Loss Camps" - When faced with an unwanted situation such as obesity that has developed over time, it can help to move away from the situation or surroundings in which the unwanted excess body weight accumulated in order make a fresh start and the necessary lifestyle changes. There are many "weight loss" or "boot camp" retreats at which the appropriate food and physical training is provided, giving attendees the best possible opportunity of obesity treatment in beautiful surroundings that might help to psychologically off-set the favourite foods one may be deprived of. However, physical exercise is just as much effort as in a local park or gym and the cost of many good quality residential weight loss retreats is very much higher. This form of obesity treatment is only likely to be a possibility for those who can afford to pay the fees and take the time away from employment or family responsibilities at home.
- The numbers shown above are included for ease of reference to this list and to help people who remember numbered lists more easily. The numbers have no significance in terms of which of which of the causes of obesity is most likely to be the main issues in any particular case.
- The above list is not necessarily complete. There are many possible causes of obesity, some are inter-related and not all possible causes of obesity apply to every case.
There are several possible obesity treatments but the thinking behind almost every obesity treatment approach is to address the energy balance between food energy consumed and the energy requirement of the body. Obese people are, therefore, usually encouraged to consume fewer calories and to take more exercise in a way that is safe for them - considering individual fitness level and any medical conditions. Emotional support often helps and can be provided via weight loss groups and/or by individual counselling. Drug therapies may be appropriate for some people. Some people claim to have found hypnotherapy helpful as an obesity treatment. The first step to finding the right obesity treatment is usually a personal consultation with a medical practitioner.
See also what is a balanced diet? some possible effects of overnutrition, causes of obesity and the health risks of obesity.