Volume 55, Issue 2 p. 277-297

Health Risks Associated With Weight Loss and Obesity Treatment Programs

Frances M. Berg

Frances M. Berg

Hettinger; North Dakota

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First published: 17 December 2002
Citations: 25


Because treating obesity through weight loss has been a major public health priority, a large number of people are trying to lose weight at any given time. Many weight loss techniques widely available and widely used have adverse physical effects. This article reviews the research on risky weight loss methods, including prescription and over-the-counter diet pills, semistarvation and other food restriction diets, stomach reduction surgery, purging, laxatives, diuretics, vomiting, and fasting. These weight loss methods can lead to a range of serious health problems, including life-threatening conditions and death. Additionally, the author summarizes the research establishing that weight loss itself can cause physical changes that may be adverse to health or may escalate the risk of death. Given these findings, the author suggests a new approach toward health, one that provides a sound framework for dealing realistically with eating and weight problems by recognizing the interrelatedness of the four major eating and weight problems: overweight, eating disorders, dysfunctional or disordered eating, and size prejudice. This approach recognizes that each of these problems is increasing in prevalence, has health risks, and needs to be dealt with in ways that do no harm. The new paradigm emphasizes, first of all, prevention of these problems, enhancing overall health and well-being, and second, research-based treatment that promotes healthy, normal eating, and does not disrupt normal, internally regulated eating patterns.