Psychological treatment helps fight fat

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For many people the New Year brings new hopes and resolutions, and for the thousands of Australians who are clinically obese, 2006 offers a renewed determination to lose weight.

Obesity has been described as a major epidemic and according to the World Health Organisation, at least 300 million people around the world are considered clinically obese. Most are located in developing countries such as Australia. Childhood obesity is also of major concern as rates of overweight and obese children continue to rise.

Given its association with serious illnesses including heart disease, stroke and diabetes, obesity is a major health concern and poses a significant cost burden for the community.

“Traditionally obesity has been addressed using medical treatments such as surgery or medication. However, there is now strong evidence to show the effectiveness of psychological treatments in tackling this problem,” says Amanda Gordon, President of the Australian Psychological Society.

“A number of studies have shown that psychological treatment is effective in managing binge eating and over eating and has been shown in some cases to be more effective than medical treatments. Recent research has found that different diets achieved similar results over a year and what became clear with the best weight loss was not which diet a person followed but whether they stuck to it. This is really a question of helping people to get and stay motivated.”

According to Gordon, psychological treatment helps to increase motivation to adhere to diet and exercise programs and to address issues related to self-esteem. “The rewards of even a small weight loss can be enormous for the individual both physically, in terms of reducing the risk of serious disease, and emotionally, with increasing community participation leading to social rewards. In addition, psychological interventions that reduce chronic illness help to lessen the burden of cost to the community.”

“Because obesity is a difficult condition to treat, we believe that a combination of treatments, including psychological intervention, may be the best option,” says Gordon.

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For more information contact:

Elaine Grant
Communications Manager
Australian Psychological Society
03 8662 3363
0412 683 068
www.psychology.org.au