December 5, 2013
Grappling as a country with the ins and outs of healthcare, we find ourselves continually identifying the same prevalent health concerns - diabetes, cancer, heart disease. Facing rising costs and increasing incidences of chronic disease, obesity is more often than not a common denominator. Though debates continue as to the level of contribution more sedentary lifestyles and greater caloric consumption have made, there is no debate that addressing obesity requires an “all-hands-on-deck” approach.
New research out of the UK emphasizes the important role physicians and other healthcare providers play in driving the lifestyle changes needed to lose weight. Specifically, the study found that appropriate weight loss advice from a physician almost doubled the likelihood of a patient’s attempting to lose weight. Sixty-eight percent of those who recalled their physician ever advising them to lose weight were currently trying to do so compared with 37 percent whose physicians never raised the topic.
It is a reality that John Sealey, DO, a cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon, has witnessed first hand. Noting the growing problem of obesity among his patient population, Dr. Sealey developed the Healthy Living program, focusing on behavioral modification, stabilization and maintenance. The program is highlighted by four main components, each of which motivate change and achieve results: keeping a food journal, addressing emotional overeating, engaging in daily exercise, and providing social and group support.
Self-awareness is a major component, making a comprehensive daily food journal an important first step in the process of assessing, troubleshooting and improving health and wellness. Including details like physical activity are especially critical as well in order to realistically encompass both calories consumed and calories burned. But perhaps most notable, and often overlooked, are the emotions involved during meal or snack times. Emotional triggers are a common cause of overeating. Having the social support of group meetings with peers dealing with common issues keeps people motivated and engaged over time in making the lifestyle changes needed.
Healthcare providers have an important role in encouraging and empowering overweight or obese patients to lose weight and should be confident in advising patients accordingly. While addressing the obesity epidemic will require major changes across the nation, Dr. Sealey’s work shows that one person can make a significant difference and, ideally, will encourage others to follow suit.