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Why Some Public Health Weight Loss Campaigns Fail
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Why Some Public Health Weight Loss Campaigns Fail


How do overweight and obese people feel about public health and media campaigns aimed at weight loss? Researchers surveyed 142 people and asked them a range of questions to determine how people respond to these types of campaigns, and what methods are effective and which are not. Some questions focused on whether the individuals felt that they themselves were overweight or at health risk because of their weight, how they felt society viewed them because of their weight, and how they would improve public health and media campaigns.

Many felt that the messages in the campaigns were too simplistic, and they too often placed stereotypes or stigmas on overweight people.

The authors found that, while the goal of the campaigns is a well-intentioned one, overweight individuals did not always take it this way. In particular, many felt that the messages in the campaigns were too simplistic, and they too often placed stereotypes or stigmas on overweight people. The people in the study also felt that the emphasis was too often on weight loss itself or the dire health consequences of being overweight, when it should be on how to bring into action the positive lifestyle changes needed to lose weight.

"Scare tactics can be more damaging than any good," one participant was quoted as saying.

Another said, "I think they need to stop putting all the emphasis on fat. I think that insisting that being thin is healthy is actually doing more harm than good. I think there needs to be more emphasis on eating well, exercising, looking after yourself, getting enough sleep at night which a lot of people don't, things like that rather than being thin. Those horrible 'Reduce Your Waist, Reduce your Risk' ads and stuff need to go away."

The results may not reflect how every overweight person may feel about weight loss campaigns. But the study does shed some much-needed light on how these campaigns are perceived by the public they target – and what might be done in the future to produce campaigns that encourage rather than alienate their audience.

The study was led by Samantha L. Thomas at Monash University, Australia, and published in the June 4, 2010 online issue of BMC Public Health.

August 5, 2010


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(2) Comments have been made

Virginia Davis
Having grown up with the 50's and 60's stigma of being overweight, I fear the current president's war on childhood obesity is going to make the problem worse. I already feel the pressure starting and feel bad for any child that it affects. It is hard enough to reach one's potential without being told you are substandard because you aren't a size 4. I have never been able to lose the weight inspite of an intestinal by-pass and on again, off again diets. It is a complex issue going beyond pushing away from the table. In my case, thyroid and insulin resistance, PCOS and heredity complicate the issue, as well as emotional issues from having to protect my self worth to the best of my ability. A good start would be serving real food in schools, re-instate recess and outdoor play. Limiting TV time shouldn't take an act of congress. Even so, compassionate direction towards healthful living and "playing" (not "exercise")would go far along with these individuals being appreciated for their abilities and not chastised for their disabilities.
Posted Fri, Aug. 6, 2010 at 7:42 pm EDT
I think too many weight-loss campaigns are about lecturing, "Do this, don't do that" rather than inspiring or motivating people. I know the facts, but when I am hungry and the quick thing is to reach for a bag of chips even though I know it is a bad move. I need someone in my head. If only one could download some of the better advice directly into your brain!
Posted Wed, Aug. 4, 2010 at 12:36 pm EDT

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