Obese and overweight people who would like to lose weight but lack the awareness of healthy options that may be implemented to achieve this goal may often be misled by the excess information about fad diets. Nowadays, these weight-loss strategies are promoted in modern media as the quickest and easiest way to become slim. As stated by Khawandanah and Tewfik (2016), although multiple versions of fad diets exist, all of them share some common characteristics: the promise of dramatic results without significant efforts, the promotion by celebrities, the restriction of food types included in the daily ration, and the focus on presumably fat-burning foods.
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It is worth noticing that “when calories consumed equal energy expended from a combination of basal metabolic rate (BMR), thermic effect (energy required to absorb and digest food) and physical activity, weight is maintained (energy balance)” (Scrivens, 2015, p. 62). It means that energy restriction associated with any fad diet always results in weight loss regardless of the number of consumed macronutrients and the degree of one’s engagement in exercising. However, despite possible rapid weight loss in a short time, a diet that promotes negative energy balance may be detrimental to health in the long run because it can cause excess ketone formation due to dehydration and incomplete fat breakdown (Khawandanah & Tewfik, 2016). Therefore, it is essential to educate patients about the possible risks of fad diets and provide them with information about more safe and sustainable ways to lose weight.
It is possible to say that obese and overweight individuals choose fad diets due to limited knowledge, particular personal perceptions of and attitudes to dieting, as well as a high level of exposure to mass media messages, which are largely predetermined by cultural and social backgrounds. Based on this, one of the most effective solutions for resolving the identified problem is a cognitive intervention aimed at the development of awareness and right attitudes to healthy eating, as well as the motivation to engage in the self-management of body weight. The suggested cognitive group intervention program, “A Sustainable Approach to Weight Loss,” focuses on informing patients, as well as health practitioners, about the issues pertaining to eating habits, healthy and unhealthy diets, and the overall lifestyle patterns contributing to excess weight and related co-morbidities.
An alternative to this solution is the medical nutrition therapy that usually addresses the problem of obesity and obesity-defined adverse health conditions, such as diabetes, through the creation of healthy diet plans and exercise programs for individuals. The benefit of this approach is that it can offer individualized weight loss interventions, tailored to specific preferences and needs (Scrivens, 2015). However, it does not necessarily address the problem of one’s motivation and adherence to the therapy. At the same time, “A Sustainable Approach to Weight Loss” will provide the program participants with continual support from both like-minded peers and competent healthcare practitioners, and ensure professional guidance needed to achieve sustainable behavioral and cognitive changes. Thus, the suggested solution will combine the best principles of the individualized interventions and community education, and will also avoid their major limitations.
The program may be realized within a clinical setting, and the participants can be recruited from its regular patient population. Healthcare providers will inform the hospital visitors who may be interested in weight loss about an opportunity to participate in a cognitive group intervention. The staff, including physicians and nurses, will be able to attend the education course as well in order to learn more about the development of weight loss programs and raise the awareness of risks and benefits associated with different diets. The instruction throughout the course will be performed by expert dieticians and nutritional psychologists who have profound insights into a variety of behavioral and eating problems. They will explain the theory and research evidence and answer any participants’ questions. Additionally, they will consult each patient who will attend the program individually and help them to develop nutritional plans based on specific needs and interests.
During the educational course, participants will be able to increase their motivation to improve their lifestyles and eating habits. They will learn to evaluate different life areas that may contribute to overeating and weight gain, and cultivate new personal values supporting healthier behaviors and mindsets. “A Sustainable Approach to Weight Loss” is meant to encourage all the attendees to implement self-management practices, which can help them to enhance the quality of life and overall health condition and, at the same time, decrease the level of their psychological and physical distress.
“A Sustainable Approach to Weight Loss” is intended as a low-intense training course with an overall duration of two months. Throughout these eight weeks of intervention, patients and interested healthcare providers will attend 2-hour group sessions, which will include theoretical and practical learning activities, two times a week. The cost of the total course will be $300 per person. The expenses for the necessary resources, including instructional materials and educators’ time, are comprised in this price, and no additional expenditures will be needed.
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Obesity is one of the most serious public health problems as it leads to severe morbidity and mortality, affecting one’s functionality, productivity, and quality of life. Moreover, obesity-related conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, cancer, and depression are associated with significant healthcare costs (Migliore et al., 2013). According to Tremmel, Gerdtham, Nilsson, and Saha (2017), “in 2014 the global economic impact of obesity was estimated to be US $2.0 trillion or 2.8% of the global gross domestic product” (p. 435). At the hospital level, costs for each non-bariatric, non-obstetric clinical procedure for obese individuals are usually higher by approximately $648 than the procedures for non-obese patients (Hruby & Hu, 2015). Additionally, at the individual level, a person with obesity and its derivatives at average pays €117-1,873 ($137-2,204) more for medical services than a normal-weight person each year (Hruby & Hu, 2015). Therefore, while aiming at the promotion of healthier lifestyles in obese and overweight individuals, the proposed solution may contribute to the increase in healthcare cost-efficiency at multiple levels by conveying the knowledge that can be applied in order to prevent costly adverse derivatives of excess body weight.
Figure 1: The chart compares the expenditures for the suggested intervention course (per 1 person), the average surplus on individual obesity-related healthcare costs, and a mean surplus on costs per procedure for obese individuals over the periods of eight weeks, six months, and a year. The data demonstrate that “A Sustainable Approach to Weight Loss” is highly cost-efficient because its costs are relatively low. Moreover, it is important to consider that the solution has the potential to decrease the surplus in expenditures at both the individual and hospital levels.
Prevention of obesity and its derivatives and promotion of community welfare is a social, organizational, and individual concern. Thus, education practices realized within hospital settings during individual and collective sessions can be regarded as a substantial step towards the achievement of desired results because they target the problem at multiple levels. Not only can “A Sustainable Approach to Weight Loss” help individuals to be more motivated and self-responsible in planning healthy diets and maintaining normal weight outside the hospital but also allows healthcare providers to develop competencies necessary during the work with overweight and obese people.
Individuals’ lifestyles and healthy eating habits are strongly associated with the overall quality of life. In this way, the improvement of behavioral and cognitive patterns that lead to obesity and provoke multiple adverse health conditions can substantially contribute to the promotion of one’s physical and psychological well-being and reduce healthcare costs at the individual, organizational, and national levels. Therefore, the investment in such cognitive intervention as “A Sustainable Approach to Weight Loss,” maybe highly beneficial because the main purpose of this education program is the promotion of social welfare and the increase in the quality of lives of the vulnerable population group. In case a person is interested in contributing to the prevention of obesity-linked morbidity in their community by raising the awareness of safe, healthy, and sustainable approaches to weight loss, they may contact the public communication department at the venue where the program will take place via phone or e-mail: [email protected]
Hruby, A., & Hu, F. B. (2015). The epidemiology of obesity: A big picture. PharmacoEconomics, 33(7), 673-689.
Khawandanah, J. & Tewfik, I. (2016). Fad diets: Lifestyle promises and health challenges. Journal of Food Research, 5(6), 80-94.
Migliore, E., Pagano, E., Mirabelli, D., Baldi, I., Gregori, D., Zocchetti, C., … Merletti, F. (2013). Hospitalization rates and cost in severe or complicated obesity: an Italian cohort study. BMC Public Health, 13, 544.
Scrivens, S. D. (2015). The role of celebrity diets versus medical nutrition therapy in type 2 diabetes. Journal of Social Health and Diabetes, 3(1), 61-63.
Tremmel, M., Gerdtham, U.-G., Nilsson, P. M., & Saha, S. (2017). Economic burden of obesity: A systematic literature review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(4), 435.