Healthcare providers also need to readjust their expectations. Getting individuals who are obese down to a normal weight isn’t realistic: Research shows that most people can’t expect to lose more than 10% of their body weight and, more important, to maintain the weight loss over time. Instead of viewing that as a treatment failure and growing discouraged with patients, doctors and nurses need to recognize that even relatively small changes in weight represent real progress and can have very important implications for health.
I’ve written before that the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines for treating obesity recommends a 10% weight loss goal. Not to diet down to “normal weight”, or even to just “overweight”. Ten percent. I also noted that I never had a medical professional (or parent or teacher) be satisfied with a 10% weight loss. I was still fat, so obviously 10% wasn’t enough.
Just to be clear? If a 10% weight loss puts you in the “normal weight” category, you weren’t in the “obese” category.
Most readers know I disagree with the emphasis on weight loss; not only are most losses not maintained in the long term, but dieting is associated with long-term weight gain. I do believe in bodily autonomy, though, and that those who choose to diet should use resources like the NIH guidelines and the observations of others who are maintaining losses to maximize their chances. And I get angry that someone could work hard to lose 10% of their body weight, could work hard to maintain that loss, and still have a healthcare provider berate them for being fat. Or refuse to treat them, just because they’re fat.
(Checking out Health At Every Size doesn’t hurt either.)