Overweight? Battling Obesity? The Latest Science-based Tips from Obesity Week 2015

Health Writer

Stop trying every new fad diet and stop trying every new gimmicky exercise program.  It’s costing you money and patience - and stressing you out when you can’t maintain your weight loss.

Here are the latest science-based tips from the recent ObesityWeek 2015 conference that will improve your chances of sustained weight loss and better health.** 1. Embrace the true complexity of obesity**

Tackling obesity and attaining a goal of long term sustained weight loss is not just about willpower, dieting, and exercise.  It’s important to understand there are 90 identified causes, contributors, and associated factors that connect with obesity. This new infograph confirms that we eat for hunger, pleasure and MANY other reasons. And while lifestyle change is certainly the cornerstone of treating obesity,  you may need tools like medication, surgery or a combination of therapeutic approaches in order to treat this tenacious, chronic disease.

2. Sleep has to be a new priority in your weight loss efforts

Past studies have shown a correlation between too little sleep or poor quality sleep and weight gain.  There may be circadian misalignment that impacts certain hormones which can affect hunger, you may eat more after dinner if you stay up too late, or your ability to control cravings may be weakened without proper sleep. However, a new study suggests that one night of poor sleep could equal six months on a high fat diet. Both sleep deficiency and a high fat diet (comprised of unhealthy fats) lead to higher risk of weight gain and impaired insulin sensitivity, creating insulin resistance.

Tip – If you already have weight issues you may have sleep apnea which will interfere with quality sleep. Snoring can be one sign.  Learn about sleep toiletry and request help from your healthcare provider if you struggle with sleep issues.

3. Create home and work spaces that limit cravings

You will not outsmart a craving if the food is front and center.  You may win “in  the moment,” but it may set off compensatory excessive eating behaviors later on.  You may also have some genetic variants that alters your brain’s responses to high-calorie foods, making you more susceptible to cravings,according to a recent study

If you are one of these individuals, you may experience more cravings than the average person when you see high fat or sugary foods, or read descriptions of foods in a menu.  Think of it as being hard-wired to grab these foods when you see or smell them and being propelled to eat them uncontrollably.  Willpower alone will not suffice.  Create barriers to cravings.

Tip – Don’t bring these tempting foods into your home or work environment.

If they are in full view in your office dining hall, brown bag lunch and eat outside away from temptations.  Shop with a list and avoid aisles in the supermarket with these foods.  Look up restaurant menus ahead of time so you already know what you will order.  Keep tempting breadbaskets and butter off the table.  These efforts will at least help to minimize tempting exposures and help you to control cravings.

4. Control stress for your own health and to reduce your kid’s risk of developing obesity

Stress and emotional eating are cornerstones of weight gain.  So controlling stress can help you limit your daily intake of calories.  A new study offers another reason to modify stress. The results of the study suggest children of stressed Latino parents may be prone to obesity.

Stress factors include difficulties at work, financial concerns, and relationship problems.  According to the study, having three or more chronic stressors in your life, is a significant risk factor for having obese children.  The study serves to suggest a global impact of family influences on children’s weight and health.

Tip – Stress reduction needs to be emphasized in families who are already obese, have a family history of obesity or have other risk factors for obesity.  Identify the stressors to your healthcare professional and seek preventive advice.  Meditation and exercise are two affordable ways to help cope with stress.

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. Stop embracing media hype, revolving myths, endless trendy diets, unsustainable workouts and miracle pills**

The average high profile celebrity trainer or nutritionist, or even the celebrity or “guru” author of the latest diet gimmick is likely out to do one thing – make money at your expense.  Supplements and over-the-counter diet aids will are not miracle cures, and many are in fact, dangerous.  Treating obesity effectively requires science-based, sensible information and treatments offered by health professionals.  Limiting your vulnerability to the next hyped diet or exercise trend and the never-ending misleading information will actually help you to manage your weight issues.

Tip - Ignore the urge to buy the hottest diet book, supplement or exercise video UNLESS your healthcare provider agrees that it is science-based and a good match for your weight needs and goals.

Begin exercising and keep challenging yourself physically.  Learn about HIIT which is considered an effective fitness approach that can help with energy balance.  Seek out doctors, surgeons, dieticians and other obesity specialists who specialize in obesity care.

6. Apps may help, but they are not weight loss miraclesThough apps can track everything from food intake and calories, to minutes of exercise, to food group breakdown to heart rate, they are not the answer for everyone.  A personal coaching phone app though obviously available 24/7 may also not be a good fit or stimulate successful weight loss, even in young tech-savvy individuals. ** You have to do the hard work that these apps are supposed to track** and, for many individuals the good old handouts with advice may be an equivalent or better resource.  In this case newer tech does not necessarily beat the older method of weight-loss information and advice.

Tip – Find tracking methods that fit your personality, needs and goals.  Smartphone apps are one good choice but a relationship with a dietitian or health coach and a written food and exercise diary may work better for you personally.  Make sure the exercise coaching and tracking apps that you choose provide incremental challenge opportunities.

7. Be willing to consider bariatric surgery (for you or your teen).  But it must be supported by diet and exercise.

A new study suggests that bariatric surgery can help teens to lose significant amounts of weight, sustain that weight loss and reverse Type 2 diabetes.  For some adults and teens, bariatric surgery can be a life-changing treatment and improve quality of life by addressing weight loss and co-morbid conditions like diabetes and the risk of heart disease.  There is now a menu of bariatric surgery options with varying side effects and risks.  Risk benefit ratio is a discussion you can have with a specialist.  Of course, it is imperative that you take the steps necessary to change lifestyle habits before and after surgery.

Tip – Read about the current bariatric surgical options and then have a discussion with your healthcare provider.  Ask for a referral to a bariatric expert so you can have full understanding of these treatments to determine if you are a good candidate for bariatric surgery.

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8. You may need medications, long term, to help you to sustain weight lossResearchers are now beginning to identify responders and non-responders to weight loss medications.  Clearly it only makes sense to keep individuals who continue to respond to the weight loss drugs, on these medications.  It is imperative that we understand that a chronic disease like obesity may require medication for weight loss, and in order to sustain goal weight. ** For many individuals, pharmacotherapy plus a calorie-restricted diet will be the optimal therapy**.

Saxenda is one drug recently identified as a weight loss drug that also improves insulin response.  Other drugs include Qysemia, Orlistat, Phentermine, Contrave, Tenuate, and Didrex.

Tip – Discuss medication options with your healthcare provider and decide if a trial with one of these drugs is a good therapeutic option.  Many of these drugs also have a range of dosages, which can help to minimize unpleasant side effects.

"What else can we do to address obesity?"

  • Move as much as possible throughout the day.
  • Try not to eat after dinner.
  • Follow a healthy diet that addresses your calorie needs, provides satiation and offers health benefits.
  • Make sure it can also be modified to your individual needs and sustained long term.

The DASH, Portfolio and Mediterranean diets can provide these features with science to support them.  And though junk food is not necessarily directly contributing to increases in BMI, according to a new study, junk food consumed on a regular basis may instigate cravings and impact your overall health profile. Experts also advise to,  “Handle treats with care.” Parents need to recognize their role whether instigating obesity because of parenting behaviors or perpetuating generational obesity. Lastly, when warning signs are noticed, it's also important to care enough to seek help for the sake of the whole family.

_Science is still in its infancy when it comes to understanding drivers of obesity and developing treatments. _

Hypothalamic injury appears to be linked to obesity and insulin resistance.  Active brown fat has a role in preventing or limiting obesity but not as much as media appears to have hyped it – at least for right now.  Brain stimulation may be a viable treatment for some individuals with obesity and weight management issues.  Obesity experts may soon decide to combine bariatric surgery with pharmacotherapies.  New bariatric devices that don’t require invasive surgery are being developed.  We certainly need community health strategies that address a whole-person, whole community approach to obesity prevention and treatment.  Healthcare needs to provide prevention, treatment and long term management of obesity.

Though fat-shaming has declined, we all need to recognize that weight bias continues to shape our opinion of individuals who suffer with this disease.  We need to embrace “people of all shapes and sizes” and offer empathic support to individuals struggling with this obesity.

Be open to education, be willing to try new treatment options and most of all recognize the complex nature of this disease we call obesity.

Source: The Obesity Society