Obesity Treatment Statement

The Weight Issues Network (WIN) is a network of people whose lives are affected by overweight or obesity, together with our families, friends, and people who care.  We are committed to removing weight stigma and work actively to spread awareness about the issues around obesity. We believe weight discrimination and blame are misplaced because most people have incorrect or incomplete notions about what causes obesity and how to manage it.  We want to shift the focus to actions that will help minimise the impacts of the condition on individuals, families, communities, and civil society.

WIN is not a clinical or research group and we do not provide weight loss advice. We also do not promote any one particular approach, diet, service, or product. We DO, however, strongly advocate for a range of high-level evidence-based options to be available and affordable for all who need them.  Every person should be able to understand what their options are and to make an informed choice on what is right for them.

Why?

  • Weight loss and management is not straightforward

It can be difficult to choose what to do if you want to: lose weight, be healthier, or both. The old repetitious  ‘eat less and move more’  advice is overly simplistic, and for many, it has never been that straightforward.  If it was, excess weight would not be such an issue for the majority of our population in Australia and around the world.

Obesity is not a lifestyle choice. Many of us have tried several tried different diets, supplements, gyms, retreats, and weight loss programs.  Some have tried consulting health professionals and services where possible with the hope that “this time it will work”.  Multiple, repeated weight-loss attempts can often be a losing battle eroding confidence and increasing self-doubt, shame, anxiety, with adverse impacts to mental health.

Yet, obesity is not looked upon with compassion like other health conditions.

  • We need better options and the right levels of support

While there is no shortage of commercial products, programs, and services that offer short-term weight loss, WIN would like to highlight that appropriate focus and attention from the health sector is missing.  Many health professionals do not take the necessary time to assess reasons for weight gain (beyond cursory eating too much or not exercising enough), nor acknowledge that losing weight is hard and keeping it off long-term is uncommon. Neither are shared the range of obesity management options that are possible. Obesity can no longer be dismissed as purely personal responsibility, and like most other complex health conditions, evidence-based health care and support are needed. However, currently in Australia, obesity is not routinely addressed in primary care,  and there are a very limited number of obesity clinics, subsidised obesity management programs, or supported medical treatments to offer people.

WIN is not only pointing out these gaps, but also helping to find solutions. We believe there are opportunities to better support people with obesity.

The WIN report “The Personal Costs of Weight Issues” makes the following recommendations:

  • Effective and evidence-based treatment options for different people’s needs should be affordable and accessible nationally. For those of us with more severe obesity, it needs to be easier to get help from obesity experts and teams.
  • Health and social service providers need to understand the science of obesity and how to best promote health and maintain it.
  • People living with obesity should be empowered and encouraged to ask questions of their healthcare providers.
  • Healthcare professionals, particularly GPs need to offer a respectful and genuinely helpful conversation for those who would like help understanding and working on their weight issues.
  • We should aim for nationally consistent and high-quality tools, resources, standards, information, and guidance for obesity care.

Summary

WIN is supportive of new approaches, care, and treatments for obesity, provided that they are evidence-based (e.g. evaluated, TGA registered for medicines and devices) and affordable. Any new option should be offered in a person-centred approach, with a transparent discussion of the pros, cons, risks, and evidence of success  in relation to each person.

There is no ‘one solution’ that will be right for everyone, and so we need a range of affordable, well-researched options if we are to genuinely offer hope for people, and change the direction of obesity in Australia.