Many people seek professional help because of being “overweight”, but who decides what is a “normal” weight? For many it is a personal decision, because they are not happy with the way they look or feel.
For others it is a decision based on medical advice. Since 1972, the Body Mass Index has been used to indicate whether a person is carrying too much fat as a proportion of body weight. You can calculate your BMI here. A body mass index of 30 or greater indicates obesity, i.e. a person is carrying too much body fat for their height and sex.
The USA and the UK have the highest obesity levels in the world, with 74% of men and 64% of women in the UK predicted to be obese by 2030 (read more here).
Consequences of obesity
Some experts believe obesity is responsible for more ill health than smoking. Being significantly overweight is linked to a wide range of health problems, including: diabetes, heart disease, High blood pressure, arthritis, indigestion, gallstones, some cancers (eg, breast and prostate cancers), snoring and sleep apnoea, stress, anxiety, and depression and infertility.
Psychological and nutritional support to help you lose weight
Psychological treatment can be highly effective in helping you to lose weight. Why? Because psychological reasons can prevent you from losing weight in the first place - such as a problematic relationship with food. Although you might be aware that in order to lose weight you will need to change your behaviours in terms of motivation, exercise and eating habits, psychological factors are often ignored - when they can actually be the biggest road-block.
For many people, food isn't the problem. Food is actually seen as a solution to the problem. So what might the problem be? More often than not, the problem is an emotional one. You may be using food to fill the absense of something else, or restricting it to gain a feeling of control for example.
If this is the case, thinking about your relationship to food can help you to lose weight. For example, some of your behaviours are shaped by your beliefs, values and experiences; so identifying which unhelpful ones are at play can help you to alter them. This is why generic weight-loss programmes may not work for you as they don't take into account individual factors.
Family is the perfect example of how different your experiences might be to the next person: some families don't eat together at all, for some family meals are tense and full of conflict, whereas for others they are enjoyed. Families communicate very different messages about food. Psychological factors like this can be very helpful to explore alongside your own attitude to food.
Although the NICE guidelines recommend the inclusion of both cognitive and behavioural factors in suitable weight-control programmes, many actually just focus on changing behaviour through operant conditioning - this includes some programmes on the NHS.
This is where qualified therapists can help - by helping you to actually get to the bottom of the problem. If you've tried to lose weight in the past, you can figure out why it didn't work and learn techniques that will actually work for you.
Above all, you need to work with, rather than against your own body.