Open letter to weight management practitioners,
RE: We are all in this together
In the short ten years of my career, timing, luck, and opportunity have granted me an unusually wide view the different things we do to help people manage their weight. I have run the psychology component of a large interdisciplinary behavioural weight loss clinic, worked closely with an interdisciplinary bariatric surgery team, and in my private practice have seen my clients work with a whole host of medical, allied, and alternative health professionals, not to mention try every diet under the sun. I have also learned alternative psychological interventions that have a small but growing evidence base and been exposed to non-dieting principles by weight-inclusive pioneers such as Rick Kausman and Linda Bacon.
And what do I see?
First, I see a shining underperformer – weight loss dieting – it is ineffective at best, harmful at worst, and incomprehensibly pervasive as the most common “treatment” for weight issues. But with that outstanding exception, which I wouldn’t inflict on my worst enemy, I see merit in ALL of the evidence-based approaches. But I also see the proponents of each fighting for theirs as the superior, discarding the value of their “competitors”, and holding onto their clients more tightly than jealous lovers.
So I am calling for peace within the factions. A peace that will allow us to freely share our clients and create more business for all of us. A peace that will resurrect the image of weight management professionals from the current one is maybe just above real estate agent (and probably well deserved). A peace that will have us work better for who we truly work for – our clients!
Let me tell you how I think we can get there…
1) Favour science over ideology. There are just too many ideas, fads, and cowboys out there to treat based on what we believe rather than what we know. If we believe our new approach is effective, then it needs to be studied in long-term quality research and argued in the academic arena. For example, I believe that a weight inclusive, interdisciplinary, psychology-based model that employs a combination of evidence-based, established, alternative, and surgical therapies with client-treatment matching and intensive intervention followed by continued care is the best approach. Now, I can argue for this until the cows come home, but what do I really need to do to convince you…yep, PHD here we come! Let’s let science be the judge of what works in weight management, not dogma.
2) Favour collaboration over competition. So many people are fighting for their individual approach, that they have become dogmatic. I have heard Health At Every Size proponents write off bariatric surgery point-blank – ignoring the data that, for the right candidate, it is the only proven long-term method of weight reduction (although, granted, it is far from perfect!). I have heard behavioural weight loss “experts” dismiss alternative psychological therapies such as Emotional Freedom Technique and Hypnosis as “weight loss tricks”, ignoring the small but growing evidence base of their seemingly lasting benefits. But it doesn’t have to be that way – there is a place for all evidence-based approaches, and rather than working so hard to prove ours as the best, we need to look to how we allow our abilities to combine and work together to overcome this pervasive, complex, and multi-faceted issue.
3) Favour love over money. Don’t get me wrong, I (like many of us if we admit it) want to make money, but I have a faith that is you do what you love and what you believe in, you will be successful in business. In our industry there are plenty of ways to make a quick buck at the long-term expense of our clients. Let’s avoid the allure and work for something that is worth more than money – purpose, meaning, and satisfaction in what we do everyday.