Would you say you are happy with your current weight? Statistics show that most people feel they are not doing enough to stay healthy. With the searing weather and sedentary lifestyle in Saudi Arabia, the aspiration to lose weight can be an arduous one.
In this month’s mental well-being article, trainee therapist and Jeddah Blog columnist Kim Lyon discusses the obesity crisis in Saudi Arabia. She outlines various methods of weight-loss, with the mind being arguably the most effective of all.
Weight-loss clinics are mushrooming around Jeddah. Some of them arrange specially formulated meals to be delivered to your door. Others promote bariatric surgery, while yet others tout quick fixes using appetite suppressants and magical weight loss pills. There are hundreds of books on the market, countless sites on the web, and increasing numbers of applications we can bring into our homes. Yet, something is amiss.
Saudi Arabia has an alarming obesity rate. In 2008, the WHO cited 43.5% of females over twenty as being obese, and 29.5% of men. Search ‘obesity’ in the local newspaper archives and you’ll find at least one story per week. Obesity and overweight are major risk factors for diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. Obesity doesn’t do much for our mental well-being, either. It can lower self-esteem, confidence, and contribute to depression.
There are several routes to weight loss. The first option is healthy living, in which you’ll develop a healthy eating plan that doesn’t require any special foods. It’ll include physical activity which may be a commitment to being more active on a daily basis.
The second option is weight loss through lifestyle changes. This requires a commitment to changing your lifestyle, restricting your food intake and using a more structured fitness regime.
The third option is adding medication to the weight loss effort, such as ones that reduce appetite or minimize the absorption of specific nutrients. Research has shown that medication is not usually successful if administered without lifestyle changes. With this option it’s particularly important to be monitored by your physician for side effects.
The fourth and final option is weight-loss surgery. These surgeries, including the gastric bypass or gastric banding, alters the amount of nutrients you absorb through your intestine, or the amount of food you can consume. Such measures should be the final resort, as long-term medical care is required afterwards. As with all of these options, surgery is not a magic fix, and also demands changes to how and what you eat.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
In trying to lose weight, our self-worth may become tied to the number on the scale. Weight loss isn’t necessarily the best strategy for improving body image, as many people regain at least some of the weight they lose, with an even body image when they’ve gained back even a little weight. Before you know it, your mood starts to yo-yo along with your weight. Research has shown that lasting improvements to body image have resulted from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for body image. This is a method of counselling which helps a person change the way they think about themselves.
There is also mounting evidence for using CBT to aid any attempt of weight loss. Along with changing what you eat, it’s important to change how you think about food. This is particularly important if you use food to combat negative feelings or stress. Working with a counsellor, you’ll set realistic goals and build on them. By tracking your eating behaviours, you’ll be able to identify patterns and tackle them. Being accountable to someone, and having ongoing support in your weight loss journey, is also invaluable.
What do you have to lose?