Obesity is a complex disorder in which excess body fat is accumulated. It develops as a result of physiological, psychological, social, and situational factors. Obesity is associated with increased risk of illness, disability, and death. There is a consensus of opinion to consider obesity as a chronic condition, which when it is treated by adopting bizarre fad diets, weight is rapidly regain. In fact, this result is the rule rather than the exception, and it has predictable consequences including:
- Poor self-image.
- Low self-esteem.
For these reasons, a paradigm shift has been proposed as a different way of looking at this old problem. This new paradigm refers to a collaboration pattern that emphasizes:
- Change of attitude.
- Modification of lifestyle.
- Teamwork with professional experts.
This is a model in which the individual learns to take more responsibility for carrying out his own treatment plan. On the other hand, we, as professionals, will learn to assume active roles as Counselors, taking into account that the required changes in behavior cannot be enacted but gradually introduced into the patient’s minds and actions.
At first, this approach does not seem innovative and the diet “Gurus” maintain their media influence as more fad diets are advertised, which most people follow as a lifeline.
On the contrary, the proposed new paradigm must be implemented with the participation of an interdisciplinary team consisting of an Endocrinologist, a Nutritionist, and a Cognitive Psychologist. Such a team must formulate an individualized treatment plan which eventually will allow the obese person to regain control of his life.
The Psychologist’s work is based on the theories proposed by Albert Blandura, Professor of Stanford University in California. He postulated the need for developing in the individual a sense of self-effectiveness. That is the belief in his own capabilities. This would allow the obese person to mobilize his own cognitive and motivational resources required to change his commonly practiced behavior and increase his expectations of personal efficacy. Those expectations play a decisive role in:
- Generalizing, and
- Maintaining an appropriate approach to face challenges.
So, what greater challenge is there than to face a chronic condition such as obesity?
When speaking of changing our customary habits we consider that our current dietary patterns and exercise routines are actually learned behaviors and as such can be changed.
Emphasis must be placed on achieving gradual and small reductions in body weight as a result of the individualized (or as a group) psychological interventions to introduce appropriate eating behaviors and physical activity. Additionally, developing strategies to manage stress is an essential component of the overall approach for treating obesity under this new paradigm.