Humans are a diverse bunch who have different ways of going about life. This variety is what makes us unique, and because of this uniqueness, we all react differently to certain stimuli. Individuality should be embraced on all levels, from a social perspective right through to health and performance.
Recent evidence derived from the analysis of more than 4,000 obese people found strong evidence to suggest that an individualised, personal weight loss strategy may be what’s needed for ALL obese people. Having worked as a Dietitian in the NHS I am profoundly aware of the intrinsic complexity of an obese persons situation, it is predominantly a psychological enigma that is more obviously linked to a calorie surplus… better known as overeating. Overeating is a mental game, a mental game that is impacted by hormonal patterns and social circumstances, so it makes sense that a thorough analysis of the individual is completed before a diet and training regime is implemented.
The study very broadly categorised obese individuals into 6 groups, and although this seems a little general and still not ‘personal’ per se, it is fair to say that it narrows the treatment plan down somewhat. The groups were categorised as follows:
- Young males who were heavy drinkers
- Middle-aged individuals who were unhappy and anxious
- Older people who, despite living with physical health conditions, were happy
- Younger healthy females
- Older affluent and healthy adults
- Individuals with very poor health
It was a combination of qualitative and quantitative questionnaires, face to face interviews, public surveys and medical records that yielded this data. This led to the categorisation of obese individuals by means of funnelling them to an appropriate action plan. Such data will enable medical professionals and Dietitians to consider their nutrition and training plan holistically, this is because time spent addressing alcohol may be misspent on the ‘younger female’ category (of course this isn’t in every case).
The health and behavioural characteristics of the different categories means it is unrealistic to approach them the same and expect a positive result. This may mean that patients undergo a questionnaire first of all, and then allocated a health professional that is best suited to their demographic, and is able to disseminate relevant info that is more specific to the individual.
Why was this not done before?
Like most things in healthcare it always goes back to money. Fund allocation has historically targeted ‘treatment’ rather than ‘prevention’, and although treating an obese individual isn’t straightforward by any means, the multi-disciplinary approach to treatment i.e. a Dietitian through to a psychologist isn’t always afforded because of the cost of staff. Despite being extensively trained in personal skills, empathy, goal setting and so on, a Dietitian can only do so much, there will come a time in an obese individual’s treatment plan where they will benefit from psychological analysis from a psychologist, psychotherapist or psychiatrist. Causes of obesity are vast, complex and warrant a multidisciplinary approach, so it’s about time that this was offered before this problem continues to escalate.
BBC News, (2015). Scientists call for stop to 'one-size-fits-all' weight loss plans. Retrieved 20th April, 2015, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-32289815
National Institute for Health Research, (2015). Yorkshire health Study. Retrieved 20th April, 2015, from http://www.yorkshirehealthstudy.org/