Treatment Hurdle: Saboteurs

Today’s post is another excerpt from “Best Weight: A Practical Guide to Office-Based Weight Management“, recently published by the Canadian Obesity Network.

This guide is meant for health professionals dealing with obese clients and is NOT a self-management tool or weight-loss program. However, I assume that even general readers may find some of this material of interest.


Weight-management efforts can be sabotaged in many ways. Support from partners, family and peers is often essential to coping with the long-term lifestyle changes needed for sustained weight maintenance. Unfortunately, close friends and family too often undermine a patient’s weight-loss efforts. The sabotage may be unintentional, as with a group of friends whose only means of socializing is to meet for dinner in a particular restaurant. Other times, friends or family may feel threatened by the patient’s decision to lose weight and the effect they expect this decision to have on their own lives. A jealous spouse, for example, may be concerned that a partner is attempting to lose weight to attract a new mate, or that he or she will attract more competing attention after losing weight.

If a patient’s spouse appears to be posing a barrier to weight management, it may be worth inviting them into the office to discuss their concerns. An open discussion may help reduce resistance.

Well-intentioned spouses on the other hand can act like “food police,” looking over their mate’s shoulder at meals and asking whether or not they are “allowed to eat that.” These spouses need to understand that the only question they ought to ask their partner is: “Is there any way I can help you?” Intrusive questions risk triggering oppositional defiance. Exploring your patient’s perceptions of how friends and family may undermine their efforts at the outset of a weight management program may enable you to help reduce any negative effects.

Social and professional obligations can also sabotage a patient’s efforts, as participation in activities centred on food and alcohol may be important for both personal and professional success. Someone whose job involves “wining and dining” potential clients may find sustainable weight loss very difficult.

Support, counselling and motivation from the medical team are essential, particularly during the weight maintenance period when the initial motivation to lose weight has decreased and the patient receives less positive reinforcement from watching the needle go down on the scale and hearing positive comments from friends and family.

© Copyright 2010 by Dr. Arya M. Sharma and Dr. Yoni Freedhoff. All rights reserved.

The opinions in this book are those of the authors and do not represent those of the Canadian Obesity Network.

Members of the Canadian Obesity Network can download Best Weight for free.

Best Weight is also available at Amazon and Barnes & Nobles (part of the proceeds from all sales go to support the Canadian Obesity Network)

If you have already read Best Weight, please take a few minutes to leave a review on the Amazon or Barnes & Nobles website.