Opening Eyes to Obesity Management

Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking to around 400 dietitians (and other health professionals) at Capital Health’s 12th Annual Regional Nutrition and Food Services symposium.

After my presentation, many of the attendees came up to personally thank me for such an “eye opening” take on obesity.

This of course is surprising, given that you’d think that, if anyone, dietitians would be the ones with the greatest knowledge and understanding of the issues around obesity management.

So I asked the folks who came up to me about what exactly they found so “eye opening”.

The answers were pretty much the issues that I have so often blogged about:

– The problems with clinically defining exactly what obesity is and who really needs treatment (no, BMI is not the best criterium!).

– The fact that obesity is a chronic disease that requires life-long treatment – a condition for which we have no cure (with a few rare exceptions).

– The rather limited long-term success of lifestyle (3-5% sustained weight loss), pharmacological (5-15% sustained weight loss) and even surgical (20-30% sustained weight loss) treatments (and even these results only if you continue the treatments!).

– The fact that while maintaining energy balance appears simple (energy in must equal energy out), energy regulation is highly complex.

– The concept that pharmacotherapy and surgery are not a “substitute” for lifestyle change but in fact only work when patients really do make substantial changes to their lifestyle (click here for a previous entry on this topic).

So, to readers of my blog, nothing really new or enlightening – yet, “eye opening” to many in the audience.

I guess we have a long way to go before all health professionals (especially physcians!) understand these basic concepts of obesity management.

If only I could speak to 400 health professionals everyday!