Thursday, October 30, 2014

Obesity Is Not About Lack Of Willpower

Yo-Yo Rubber Band Feb 2014As I prepare to spend the rest of this week educating health professionals in Ontario on how to better manage obesity in their practice, it is perhaps appropriate to remind ourselves that Canada is not alone in attempting to tackle this problem.

Indeed, we need to look no further than the Australian Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Overweight and Obesity in Adults, Adolescents and Children for a succinct summary of reasons just why obesity management is so difficult:

- Regulation of body weight involves complicated feedback systems that result in changes in appetite, energy intake and energy expenditure. 

- While excess weight in individuals usually results from a prolonged period of energy imbalance, the causes of overweight and obesity are complex.

- Diet and physical activity are central to the energy balance equation, but are directly and indirectly influenced by a wide range of social, environmental, behavioural, genetic and physiological factors—the relationships between which are not yet fully understood.

- Individuals may be at greater risk of weight gain at particular stages in their lives.

The guidelines remind practitioners of the fact that body weight underlies tight regulation through a complex homeostatic system:

“While this system defends against weight gain as well as weight loss under normal circumstances, energy balance cannot be maintained when an energy surplus is sufficiently large and sustained. Weight gain will begin and usually continue until a new weight results in increased energy expenditure and energy balance is re-established. The same physiological mechanisms then seek to maintain energy balance at the higher weight, and will defend against weight loss by increasing appetite and reducing energy expenditure) if there is an energy deficit. As a result, most overweight and obesity results from upward resetting of the defended level of body weight, rather than the passive accumulation of excess body fat.”

This acknowledgement is a vast step forward from previous simplistic views of obesity which falsely view it as just a matter of “calories in” and “calories out”, which falsely imply that individuals should be able to achieve any desired weight simply by volitionally changing this balance through willpower alone.

Indeed, the reality is that the vast majority of individual attempting this “balance” approach to weight management will fail miserably only to gain the weight back.

Thus, the Australian guidelines are not shy about declaring a better need for pharmacological treatments and promoting the more extensive use of bariatric surgery for individuals with sever obesity related health problems.

A clear reminder to all of us that current treatments for obesity are insufficient and better, safer and more accessible treatments are urgently needed.

@DrSharma
Toronto, ON

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Social Network Analysis of the Obesity Research Boot Camp

bootcamp_pin_finalRegular readers may recall that for the past nine years, I have had the privilege and pleasure of serving as faculty of the Canadian Obesity Network’s annual Obesity Research Summer Bootcamp.

The camp is open to a select group of graduate and post-graduate trainees from a wide range of disciplines with an interest in obesity research. Over nine days, the trainees are mentored and have a chance to learn about obesity research in areas ranging from basic science to epidemiology and childhood obesity to health policy.

Now, a formal network analysis of bootcamp attendees, published by Jenny Godley and colleagues in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Healthcare, documents the substantial impact that this camp has on the careers of the trainees.

As the analysis of trainees who attended this camp over its first 5 years of operation (2006-2010) shows, camp attendance had a profound positive impact on their career development, particularly in terms of establishing contacts and professional relationships.

Thus, both the quantitative and the qualitative results demonstrate the importance of interdisciplinary training and relationships for career development in obesity researcher (and possibly beyond).

Personally, participation at this camp has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career and I look forward to continuing this annual exercise for years to come.

To apply for the 2015 Bootcamp, which is also open to international trainees – click here.

@DrSharma
Toronto, ON

ResearchBlogging.orgGodley J, Glenn NM, Sharma AM, & Spence JC (2014). Networks of trainees: examining the effects of attending an interdisciplinary research training camp on the careers of new obesity scholars. Journal of multidisciplinary healthcare, 7, 459-70 PMID: 25336965

 

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Obesity Tip Sheet For Occupational Therapists

OT obesity tip sheet AHS Oct 2014

October is Occupational Therapist Month, an event celebrated by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists in a nation-wide campaign involving billboards and bumper stickers.

Reason enough to turn my readers attention to a “tip sheet” developed by members of the Alberta Health Services’ Bariatric Resource Team that explains when to refer their patients with obesity to an occupational therapist.

The preamble to this sheet notes that,

“Occupational therapists promote health and well being for people with obesity by facilitating engagement in occupations of everyday life, including addressing occupational performance issues in the areas of self-care, productivity and leisure. This can impact quality of life, including how people with obesity participate in their daily lives and in health and weight management activities.”

Occupational therapy referral may be indicated for a person with obesity presenting with challenges ranging from occupational engagement to completing simple activities of daily living.

To download this OT referral tip sheet click here.

Happy OT month!

@DrSharma
Hamilton, ON

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Obesity 5As At The Armed Forces

sharma-obesity-canadian-forcesThis morning I am presenting a workshop on the Canadian Obesity Network’s 5As of Obesity Management to members of the Canadian Armed Forces here in Ottawa.

As I discussed in a previous post, members of the Armed Forces are not immune to weight-gain – if anything, the considerable stressors encountered by military personnel make them perhaps even more prone to weight gain than civilians.

And, as for civilians, there are no easy solutions. Once the weight is on, military personnel face the same challenges in losing weight and keeping it off (if indeed their excess weight is affecting their health) as everybody else.

I look forward to an exciting discussion with the medical personnel on base about how best to apply the 5As of Obesity Management in their practice.

@DrSharma
Ottawa, ON

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Shifting To Wellness

Practice Consultant at Association of New Brunswick Licensed Practical Nurses

Christie Ruff, Practice Consultant at Association of New Brunswick Licensed Practical Nurses

Yesterday, at the annual conference of the Canadian Occupational Health Nurses in Saint John, New Brunswick, I was delighted to hear a presentation by Christie Ruff, a nursing practice consultant for the Province of New Brunswick, who spoke on the impact of sleep and shift work on health and wellness.

As Ruff pointed out, shift work is “officially” defined as any work that happens on a regular basis outside of 8.00 am to 5.00 pm, Mondays to Fridays. Work includes any of the work you take home, any checking of work related e-mails or even carrying a pager so you can be reached.

Based on this definition, the vast majority of the working population is doing shift work. Yet, virtually none of us have any formal “education” on how best to deal with the many problems that regular shift work poses for our health and well-being.

One program that addresses this issue is a program called “Shifting to Wellness“, developed at Keyanu College in Fort MacMurray, Alberta, and provides a two-day workshop for employees, who work shifts. Ruff has been a Master Trainer for this program for over 10 years.

The program looks in detail at how better understanding natural circadian rhythms, can allow shift workers to better cope with burden of shift work – from catching up on sleep to healthy eating and physical activity patterns.

From an employer perspective, this is far from trivial. Shift workers are far more prone to making mistakes and having accidents (or simply clicking the “send” button a moment too soon). Many major workplace disasters were the direct result of workplace fatigue, inattention and errors made by shift workers often fatigued from lack of sleep.

Indeed, the presentation included a comprehensive review of the stages of sleep and how these are affected (and may be corrected) in shift workers.

The “crankiness” and “irritability” of shift workers is directly related to their lack of REM sleep, as is their higher rates of depression and decreased ability to deal with stressors.

These factors also affect other aspects including personal relationships and decisions.

As readers will be well aware, lack of sleep has also been linked to appetite and hunger as well as metabolic health.

No doubt, learning more about sleep, fatigue and how to address these issues is something that any health professional working in obesity prevention or management needs to pursue to better serve their clients (and themselves).

@DrSharma
Saint John

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In The News

Diabetics in most need of bariatric surgery, university study finds

Oct. 18, 2013 – Ottawa Citizen: "Encouraging more men to consider bariatric surgery is also important, since it's the best treatment and can stop diabetic patients from needing insulin, said Dr. Arya Sharma, chair in obesity research and management at the University of Alberta." Read article

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