Curing obesity means treating mind and body

  • By JANET H. ELLIOTT
  • Thursday, May 3, 2018 11:06am
  • Opinion

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a holiday we’ve observed in this country since 1949. Over the past 70 years, we’ve made huge strides in understanding mental health, effective routes for treatment and the impact it has on our physical health. Today, experts recognize that mental health is a significant contributing factor for a number of physical ailments, including obesity.

More than 100 million Americans suffer from obesity, with Alaska’s adult obesity rate the 20th highest in the nation. Projections show that by 2050, over 42 percent of Americans will be obese. For many years, the prevailing treatment for obesity relied on diet and exercise alone. But such an approach is shortsighted; treatment of this widespread epidemic must be comprehensive, considering the patient as a whole with a focus not only on body, but on mind as well.

As an in-house licensed clinical psychologist at Anchorage Bariatrics, I have the privilege of working with patients every day to help them attain their health and wellness goals. I gather a thorough and comprehensive history of the individual, which includes not only their physical health, but their mental health, traumas, addictions, hobbies, employment, weight concerns, weight-loss attempts, customary diet, physical activity, family, and weight loss goals, expectations and fears. It is my goal, and the goal of our entire medical team, to gain a deeper understanding of the patient and the many factors to consider when discussing treatment options.

It is not my job to help a patient lose weight in the short-term, but to help them sustain a healthy weight for the rest of their lives. And that takes more than a strict diet, exercise regimen, medication or surgery. It means considering their personal histories and habits and addressing any unresolved emotional traumas in a safe space. It means working with the patient to build up their support networks and explore their readiness for change. It means helping them become healthy in both mind and body so that they can thrive in the long-term.

Some individuals choose to seek bariatric treatment after years of contemplation. Others are simply referred by their primary care physician. Whatever the reason may be, the patient’s decision to lose weight is a major step in their life. It is the first step on a path that, like many of life’s adventures, contains hills and dales, ups and downs, forks in the road and detours. But with the knowledge we have now, we know that treating obesity with a consideration for both physical and mental health gives individuals the opportunity to make real, long-term changes in their lives.


• Janet H. Elliott, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist at Anchorage Bariatrics.


More in Opinion

A sign designates a vote center during the recent municipal election. The center offered a spot for voters to drop off ballots or fill a ballot out in person. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The failure of mail-in voting

Juneau’s last municipal election was a failure.

Web
Have something to say?

Here’s how to add your voice to the conversation.

Doug Vincent-Lang is commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.( (Courtesy Photo)
Opinion: Special interest hit piece unfairly targets Southeast fisheries

I was disappointed by what I consider to be a targeted attack on Southeast Alaska salmon fisheries.

Snow blows off Mt. Roberts high above the Thane avalanche chute, where an avalanche blew across the road during a major snowstorm. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
An Alaska winter of discontent

It’s been a hard winter throughout the state.

teaser
Opinion: The pulse of fealty

Let’s be honest. Trump’s demands go beyond his one stated condition.

An array of “I Voted” stickers wait for early voters inside Mendenhall Mall on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: Easy to vote and hard to cheat

It’s essential that election officials evaluate changes to ensure state voting system remains secure

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Hope, prayer, and mRNA vaccines

Every elected leader should be asking Americans to do their patriotic duty —get vaccinated.

A sign designates a vote center during the recent municipal election. The center offered a spot for voters to drop off ballots or fill a ballot out in person. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: Another reason to return to in-person voting

Why are we continuing to do mail-in elections?

Alexander B. Dolitsky
Opinion: Russian Old Believers in modern Alaska

America is the sunrise for the Russian Old Believers in Alaska.