This new ‘revolutionary’ dietary methodology initially pitched at children is interesting, it’s interesting because it seems to have elucidated a way to encourage individuals and families to embrace a way of eating and drinking that is better for their health, and promotes weight loss. Interestingly, this weight loss revolution (as they are calling it in Denmark) doesn’t appear to have a name as such, rather (and quite refreshingly) it is referred to as a ‘way of life’. It seems because it is not a ‘diet’ in the classic form, many municipalities in Denmark have taken it more seriously and adopted this way of life. It seems to be supporting weight loss, in fact, around 70% of patients that have commenced this way of life are maintaining their weight loss for a minimum of 4 years after starting. The scheme has treated more than 1,900 patients to date, and continues to aid weight loss in mainly children by predominantly adjusting about 20 elements of their lifestyles… 20 changes that can really make a difference it seems!
Obesity is an illness… remember
It is now widely accepted that obesity is indeed a disease, yes, a disease…consequently people (particularly children) that are obese need lots of support to get them through, if left to their own devices children can (and do) spiral out of control. So the nature of Dr Jens Christian Holm’s scheme is that it metaphorically embraces children, demands support from the family, and formulates a plan that is targeted at the whole family, because making a meaningful difference to what a child does, and more importantly eats, depends entirely on what is provided by the household. If crap is in the cupboards, then crap is accessible to the child… if you don’t buy it, you (or should I say they) can’t eat it!
What does the scheme consist of?
The programme begins with a thorough screening in hospital, this entails 24 hours of body fat scans, questionnaires, and assessment of behavioural patterns. The children are immediately informed that this scheme is no game, the onus isn’t simply on the child, it involves the family too requiring some wholesale changes to their lifestyle and dietary habits in order to kick start the body into fat burning mode again. As mentioned above, the programme implements 15-20 realistic lifestyle changes that aim to invoke long term weight loss. If the family and children are unable to implement these and break the long standing habits, then no weight loss will follow. The good news is that if the children can stick to the 20 lifestyle changes, then the maintenance of this weight loss can be achieved through just 5 hours of medical consultation per child per year, this is a marked improvement on the previous burden obese children place on healthcare resources.
Examples of lifestyle changes include getting more sleep, meaning the children have a set bed time each night because fatigue negatively effects hormones, as well as increasing the likelihood of eating because they feel tired. They will also have a set exercise regime as well as a balanced, calorie controlled diet plan. One of the many success stories from this Danish scheme is a 14 year old called Mike, he used to weigh 85kg but now weighs around 62kg, a much more appropriate weight for his age. When asked how he felt about the scheme he said:
"To begin with it was hard but then it became a part of my daily routine and it's much easier,"
And therein lies the message… a lifestyle change may come as a shock to people, they may need to do it the hard way as opposed to getting a quick fix, but once these changes become a part of your daily routine, things become a lot, lot easier for you. Should the UK consider adopting this type of scheme? Frankly it’s a no brainer…yes we most definitely should, the only problem is going to be getting around that ‘why should I’ attitude that seems to envelope many societies in the UK. Why should you…? Well, because your health is at stake, that’s why!
BBC News Health, (2014). Have the Danes cracked childhood obesity? Retrieved 11th November, 2014, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-29755469