What is obesity? According to Wikipedia, obesity is described as a medical condition where excess fat collects around the body; causing adverse health problems that can reduce life expectancy".

I though about this and questioned my family doctor, whether he considered 'obesity' to be a medical condition. Upon reflection, he then replied with a negative response; because he felt it is a 'risk factor' for contributing towards many serious chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis that can limit patient's quality of life. His treatment would be a referral to a dietitian, for a program of a healthy eating combined with an exercise regime.

I next contacted a psychologist colleague and asked him the same question. He also did not consider obesity to be a medical condition; but more a mechanism of coping, through 2 areas: The first being psychological and the second being behavioral. He feels people use the behavior pattern of eating as psychological protection, or comfort; for coping with any stress or emotional discomfort in the environment, when no other options are perceived to help.

From a rehabilitation perspective and as an Occupational Therapist, I would view the person more from a holistic perspective. I would want to understand how the obesity affects the individual's normal every day functioning; in order to determine if I, as an Occupational Therapist can improve on any physical or psychological functioning, for makes daily living easier and safer to manage. My goal is to improve safety and comfort in all functional activities, as well as to improve on the quality of living.

We do not set goals in treatment, because the individual sets their own goals for achievement. We just may modify them, so the goals are realistic, measurable and achievable. In this way, the individual will successfully achieve their goals with our professional help.

Since part of our training is in psychology, we as OTs want to empower individuals to use practical ways for modifying behavior patterns that make adjustments to the way individuals see and appreciate food. By talking to individuals and discovering how they view eating, may help determine strategies to modify their behavior, using a practical and functional perspective. Our aim is to help clients feel comfortable around healthy food and safe in all functional activities.

The term rehabilitation means to return back to prior to functioning in normal living. Each rehabilitation expert has unique expertise, but will often over lap professional expertise, such as in teaching safe management with functional mobility tasks, related to balance and movement. My expertise is in functional seating, for enabling correct supportive posture in sitting when accomplishing performance-related tasks.

Originally as an OT, I worked in seating for wheelchair users in their own homes and nursing homes. But now my interest is in working with people suffering obesity, who will have back pain when sitting. This is because the excess weight is forcing their posture into abnormal positions, which causes unnecessary strain to their sitting position, resulting in back pain.

Although medical professions do not see obesity under a medical label, they still identify it as a risk factor for obtaining serious chronic conditions that can affect productive lifestyle and comfort in daily living as well as your life expectancy. Their option is to refer individuals to a Dietitian for a program of diet and exercise.

However, if it was as simple as that, then no one would be obese! Life is never that simple, as psychologists appreciate; but they are rarely used, because the underlying problems are never identified by the referring medical professional.

It is not easy to make lifestyle changes on your own, for overcoming the problem of obesity. You also may not be aware of it as a problem, until you cannot fit into a normal-sized chair, or your back starts to ache; or you have difficulty performing normal everyday activities of daily living

You need practical help to resolve your immediate physical problems, which can be helped through Occupational Therapy. Our goal is to enable you to be comfortable and safe in all daily living activities; but also to help you understand that your current behavior around food is not helping your current health status.

We as OTs can advise on the adjustments that you need to make, for continuing a healthy, but comfortable lifestyle; which includes more productive activity that balances out any inactivity. This is a more practical approach for changing your eating pattern into a more health-conscious approach to sensible eating, so that your lifestyle fits into a comfortable pattern around healthy food and productive activity.

Author's Bio: 

The author Gail McGonigal is a qualified Occupational Therapist with an M.Sc. in Health Promotion. She owns her own internet business called Active Living Solutions http://www.activelivingsolutions.net where she sells ergonomic chairs for the larger person; http://www.activelivingsolutions.net/big-and-tall-chairs.html Gail is unable to practice as an OT, due to the residual brain damage from viral encephalitis. Gail is now using her professional skills to help people suffering with obesity, learn how to move safely in functional tasks, especially when prolonged sitting. Gail also wants to help to obese individuals gain insight into how changing their current behavior and psychological thinking towards food will give them a more positive outlook about the way they can appreciate healthy food in their lives. To do this Gail is offering a free Therapeutic Active Living Plan with each chair purchased from her site. Gail is also in the process of setting up a long-weekend trip with different downtown hotels; so that a visit to the city of Vancouver can be combined with a fitting for an ergonomic chair at the manufacturer's location in Vancouver.

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