When I tell people I work in bariatric care, run a bariatric surgical clinic, or specialize in weight management, they often make their very own version of a puzzled face. The follow-ups are usually “what does that mean?” and “so, what do you actually do on a daily basis?”. Unfortunately for the asker, the answers to both of those questions are not as direct and a little more involved then they may like to hear.
While in the later stages of my graduate studies, I made a decision to branch off from clinical psychology (eating disorders and neuroscience) and instead focus on obesity and bariatric surgery. For several years I had investigated how under eating affected one’s health and neurological function. However, I began craving (no pun intended) to understand the other side of the spectrum. In doing so, my eyes were opened to the multidisciplinary approach needed to support people living with obesity and those looking to manage their weight. Not surprisingly, individuals living with excess weight struggle with many of the same issues including, but not limited to; social bias, stigmatization, misconception, lack of awareness/support, and underdeveloped treatment plans and interventions.
In my day-to-day practice, I see people who have struggled with their weight for many years, and, quite often, they’ve all been told the same thing. Some of the input or anecdotal narratives come from friends, family members, or doctors while others come from unsolicited peers. Wherever it comes from, the themes are always the same. “It’s all about calories in, calories out”, or “put down the sweets and get moving”, or better yet “it’s easy”. The truth is simple - losing weight is easy and very possible. However, so too is weight regain. And, more often than not, people who are looking to lose weight live, often unhappily/unhealthily, in a viscous cycle of weight loss/gain that is fueled by fear, misconception, fad treatment approaches, and unsustainable practices.
Unlike weight loss, the concept of weight management focusses on properly managing one’s weight through the adoption and development of sustainable, healthy behavioural change. It is not a quick fix, fad diet, or focus on cosmetic measures. Rather, the focus is on improving one’s long-term health, functionality, and quality of life. In pursuing weight management with an individual or patient, there is an obvious goal to reduce weight. However, unlike classic restrictive diets, the goal is systematic, attainable, and sustainable weight loss.
As its title suggests, weight management isn’t a quick fix. It involves addressing, and often managing the underlying factors (biological, psychological, social) that may have contributed to the development of unhealthy habits and excess weight. To do so, there is no road map or one size fits all fix. However, there are several things that generally need to be involved in order to develop a plan and they tend to include; understanding one’s best weight, investigating the drivers and barriers to weight gain, adopting functional fitness, smart goal setting, addressing portion distortion, and apply portion control. [FG1]
The focus of weight management should center on changing one’s lifestyle. However, all too often we’re just focused on “style” (cosmetics, clothes, weight) rather than the “life” that precedes it. In my talk “Simply Healthy. Simply Fit. With PGX”, I will speak about my personal and professional experiences in weight management and how one can break the vicious cycle of weight loss/re-gain and begin to better manage their weight, each and every day.