If Not Dieting, Then What?

by | May 2, 2014 | Mental Health

If Not Dieting, Then What?

by | May 2, 2014 | Mental Health

Almost daily we are informed by media and expert sources that we are in the midst of an ‘obesity epidemic’, a ‘crisis’, a ‘tsunami’. In fact, medical doctor Rick Kausman, a pioneer of the person-centred approach to wellbeing and healthy weight management, notes that the only phrase he hasn’t heard to describe the state of people’s weight is ‘obesity armageddon‘.

In his keynote speech at the APNA Nurses conference in Perth, WA, Dr. Rick Kausman goes on to inform the audience that experts in health-related fields, policy developers, and other key stakeholders looking for a fix to this ‘obesity epidemic’ have turned to the diet industry in the past few decades for the solution. If we get people on a diet that involves calorie restriction and/or dictates what one is to eat and how much then people will lose weight – problem solved! At least, that’s the logic.

The reality is simply this: Dieting does not work. The overwhelming evidence for this statement comes from several studies that have examined people’s adherence to particular diets (such as Jenny Craig, The Zone, Atkins, etc.) and their weight typically across of period of 12+ months [1]. The main conclusions from these studies is that:

1) The majority of people who go on a weight-loss diet drop-out after 12 months, and
2) Almost all people who go on a weight-loss diet regain the weight lost and, in one-third to two-third of cases, dieters regain more weight than they lost on their diets [2] [3].

This is where Dr. Rick enters the picture: If dieting doesn’t work, then what?

Dr. Rick champions the person-centred approach to wellbeing and healthy weight management. The approach centres on the idea that maintaining a healthy and comfortable weight for each of us is achieved by working on the relevant issues for us. So, rather than applying a catch-all diet-and-exercise recommendation, if we help individuals to work on a few key areas that have played a role in causing them to be over their most healthy weight, we are likely to see improvements in emotional and physical wellbeing. It’s not the magic pill that the diet industry promises but it is an approach that can break the cycle of deprivation and help people actually be comfortable in their own skin. What a revelation!

Dr. Rick covers key areas such as eating slowly, savouring food, noticing our hunger and satiety, embracing language such as ‘everyday food’ and ‘sometimes food’ to rip-off the moral label attached to food, and getting in touch with foods that we enjoy at length in his book, If not Dieting, Then What?

I whole-heartedly recommend Dr. Kausman’s book and other media to yo-yo dieters, dieters in general, and anyone who is interested in empowering themselves with knowledge on how to approach weight management in a way that is free of shame and deprivation but just as, or more effective, than the approach currently prescribed by the weight-loss industry.

From a personal perspective, Dr. Kausman’s book was revolutionary to me when I read it fresh out of a hospital admission with anorexia nervosa. Revolutionary in that it was absolutely wonderful: it was amazing to think that I could eat cake… and that it didn’t make me a bad person. Life-changing principles for a person who had truly been sucked in by the weight-loss industry’s idea that thin = loved/successful and fat = unloved/disgusting.

Dr. Rick personally invited me to attend his keynote lecture today and was kind enough to chat with me after his talk for about 20 minutes to answer some burning questions. His manner was impeccable and I can’t wait to see the person-centred approach to wellbeing and healthy weight management become the dominant paradigm!

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[1] Mann, T. et al. (2007) Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer. American Psychologist, 62(3), 220-233. http://mann.bol.ucla.edu/files/Diets_don%27t_work.pdf
[2] Finley et al. (2007). Retention rates and weight loss in a commeercial weight loss program – Jenny Craig. International Journal of Obesity, 31, 292-296.
[3] Dansinger et al. (2005). Comparison of the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone Diets for Weight Loss and Heart Disease Risk Reduction: A randomised Trial. Journal of American Medical Association, 293(1), 43-53.