Seeking Help for Obesity
Obesity contributes to several medical health conditions that can be life-threatening (click here for medical complications). Understandably, most people first wish to deal with the visible aspects of the problem, i.e. the excessive weight and treatment for weight loss often focuses around the areas of exercise and diet. It is important to include a psychological component. Those programmes that do offer some psychological input, usually offer practical advice on how to deal with stress or how to gain control over food, such as putting less food on a plate, or not shopping on an empty stomach. This kind of help is very useful but it does not deal with the deeper psychological issues that contribute to obesity. After a short time of feeling in control, most individuals end up feeling deprived, helpless, a failure and further entrenched in their problem.
Obesity is a multi-factorial problem that requires a multi-disciplinary approach. That is, a team of professionals should deal with the problem. The following professionals should be consulted.
1. The family physician or G.P. can exclude the possibility of any medical factors that may be causing the problem. Only 3% of obesity is due to a physical condition (see identification). Please ask him/her for the name of a reputable psychologist who works with eating disorders.
2. A psychologist. If you know of a reputable psychologist who works in this area then s/he can be approached directly. This is not a problem that can be solved in a few sessions and long-term therapy is usually required. See causes to understand the kind of psychological factors that are at play with obesity. Do not dabble with this problem. Seek the right help as soon as possible. Usually psychologists who work with eating disorders work in conjunction with a dietitian. I advocate that you first understand the underlying issues before attempting to lose weight.
3. A dietitian. In order to lose weight successfully, the input-output theory is the answer. Eat less and exercise more. If however, there are underlying psychological issues at play these need addressing first before you remove food and the weight, which in itself may be a protection. Disordered eating should never be treated from the dietary aspect alone. Dietitians who specialise in disordered eating will work in conjunction with a psychologist.
4. A psychiatrist, if necessary. Usually the family physician and the psychologist can assess whether this problem requires the additional input of a psychiatrist.
5. An exercise specialist. If you are overweight, our exercise specialist at Mindalot will advise you on a suitable exercise regimen. (See our team). Please ensure that you seek help from the right people.
An attempt to change only the symptom is one of the reasons why people with disordered eating constantly need to readdress the problem. Few people have only been to one weight loss programme. It is important to address the manifestation of the problem as early as possible, as there is a strong likelihood that just dealing with the excess weight will not be as successful. Please bear in mind that there are psychological and historical causes to obesity. It is never just about too much food or the lack of exercise! It is also about your relationship with yourself and how this manifests in your relationship with food. Food may have become your friend and your foe! (See the section on dieting).