Obesity In America Demands Cultural Change

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Drs. Jenny and Jason Conviser of AscendCHC, a behavioral health care group, write book on new model for weight-loss success.

UnWeighted Nation: Addressing the Obesity Crisis Through Cultural Change

What if success was not an ideal number? What if success was unique to each individual?

If dieting were the solution to obesity, the U.S. would not be in the top ten countries with the world’s worst obesity rates. An estimated 45 million Americans are on a diet and spend approximately $33 billion on weight-loss strategies and products. Despite this, nearly two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.

The diet mentality has actually been more harmful than helpful in the pursuit of health, say Drs. Jenny and Jason Conviser, authors of "UnWeighted Nation: Addressing the Obesity Crisis Through Cultural Change" (ascendchc.com/unweighted-nation/). Dieting most often focuses on an ideal number as the barometer for success, and that’s at the core of the problem.

In "UnWeighted Nation", the Convisers propose a new model called the “UnWeighted Model” for better health.

“People believe that reaching ‘that preselected number’ will bring greater satisfaction than it does,” says Dr. Jenny Conviser, Psy.D., an assistant Professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and CEO of AscendCHC (ascendchc.com), a behavioral health clinic. “Numbers on a scale or chart do not always ensure outcomes like respect, control, social ability, or happiness.”

The Convisers’ UnWeighted Model begins with a conceptual change. The model encourages individuals to think of weight success on a continuum, between the poles of “non-dieting” (in which a person may have insufficient structure for healthy control) and “dieting” (in which a person may feel over controlled by external factors). The Convisers ask, “What if success was not an ideal number? What if success was unique to each individual?”

"UnWeighted Nation" challenges the health care community, educators, parents, and exercise professionals to think differently about weight.

“The way forward,” say the Convisers, “is to treat the whole person, rather than the obese condition in isolation. The obese condition does not exist separately from the rest of the individual, that person’s community, and culture at large.”

To reframe the problem of obesity, the Convisers argue that the culture needs to find a more reasonable middle ground of success, recognizing that each individual’s path to health is unique. What is best for one individual is not necessarily what’s best for everyone.

Dr. Jason Conviser, a fellow of American College of Sports Medicine and fellow of the Medical Fitness Association, has worked with patients dealing with metabolic syndrome and obesity for years. An expert in metabolic assessment and exercise, he says, “Every family and community has stories of people affected by weight or obesity-related matters—lives often weighted down by defeat, fear, shame, stigma, and debilitating health.”

According to the Convisers, addressing obesity begins with redefinition. No one person, alone, can fix the problem. As a culture we must ask, “What cultural changes must be made? What if there was a new model for success?”

“These are difficult concepts to explain in sound-bites and in a short amount of time,” recognizes Dr. Jenny Conviser. “But people know that there is something problematic if not defeating about our current approach to weight issues, and that there needs to be an alternative. The UnWeighted Model proposes a new way forward.”

For more information or to schedule an interview with the Convisers, contact Kirsten Tangeros by email at Kirsten(at)czstrategy(dot)com or by phone at 847-454-5783.

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Kirsten Tangeros
CZ Strategy
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