A new study has found that obese individuals believe that obesity interventions should not focus exclusively on weight loss but on more holistic approaches to aid health and wellbeing.
Participants in the study, led by Monash University’s Dr Samantha Thomas, Head of Consumer Health Research Group (CHARGe), thought that quick fix obesity interventions were not only ineffective but created stigma, shame and blame towards fat individuals.
Researchers interviewed 142 obese people and asked them how they felt about government regulation, large-scale public health initiatives, media campaigns, personalised fitness programmes, gastric banding surgery and commercial diet groups.
The findings were published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Public Health.
Dr Thomas said study participants supported lifestyle interventions and criticised fad-dieting, labelling the dieting industry as "greedy", "a scam" and "a rip-off".
Yet ironically, they still turned to the weight loss industry to help them lose weight.
"We know the weight loss industry does not provide an effective long-term solution for obesity and the study showed that consumers were also acutely aware of this, with many survey participants saying that commercial interventions for obesity exploited a vulnerable population desperate to change," Dr Thomas said.
"It is very concerning that despite knowing fad-diets and commercial weight loss options were not a long term solution people continued to opt for the quick fix, despite knowing that there are more effective options available to them.
"Of further concern is that these so called quick fixes have been to shown to cause more harm than good to people’s physical and emotional well being over time. That people who engage in quick fix solutions often spend many more years trying to lose the weight they had successfully lost, because there was no long term support strategies put into place for them.
"It seems that obese people could not see a viable alternative to the commercial options. They perceived a lack of support and help from the wider community, which encouraged participants to turn to the weight loss industry even though they seriously questioned its efficacy, safety and motives.
The team involved researchers from Monash University, University of Melbourne and the University of Canberra.
"This study provides a number of new insights into how and why obese individuals support and uptake different types of interventions," Dr Thomas said.
Importantly, participants supported public health interventions which they perceived were non-judgmental, non-stigmatising and empowered individuals to improve their lifestyles rather than focusing on weight loss per se."
(Source: Monash University: BMC Public Health: July 2010)