Obese adults prefer noncommercial, nonstigmatizing interventions designed to help them improve their lifestyles over programs that just promote weight loss, according to a study in BMC Public Health. The aim of this study was to explore the opinions and attitudes of obese individuals toward population and individual interventions for obesity in Australia.
The participants were asked about their attitudes to 6 interventions: media-based social marketing campaigns,public health interventions and initiatives,regulation (eg, banning junk food advertising aimed at children),obesity surgery,commercial diets (specifically Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig), and specialized fitness programs (eg, women-only gyms such as Curves and public funding for personal trainers).
The researchers found that about two thirds of participants thought that regulation was one of the most effective solutions for the obesity epidemic in Australia. Public health interventions and initiatives were favored by 42% of the participants. One third of the participants thought that media campaigns were effective, especially ones based on positive messages and incentives, rather than scare tactics. The researchers also report that most participants were somewhat skeptical about the long-term success of obesity surgery, voicing concerns about the commercial marketing of the surgery and also about the associated short- and long-term risks.
Only 18% thought that commercial dieting programs were effective interventions for weight loss, and only a small number thought that diets were effective for weight loss. Weight Watchers was deemed to be better than other commercial programs, with participants calling the program's approach "genuine," "sensible," and "[health-]promoting," according to the study authors. The authors also found that participants distrusted the commercial marketing techniques of the diet industry and wanted the industry regulated. Some participants also described commercial diets as unsafe — particularly those that provide prepared meals. They used terms such as "greedy," "a scam," and "a rip-off" to describe the dieting industry.
Bonnie - this study is very telling. Obese individuals know there are no quick fixes to losing weight and ultimately keeping it off. Long-term, individualized lifestyle changes are needed. However, progress could move much quicker with major public health reforms.