How do I Perform an Obesity Intervention?

If a friend or loved one suffers from severe obesity, an obesity intervention may be the most effective way to encourage the person to get treatment for the condition. In an obesity intervention, a severely overweight individual is confronted about her need to manage her condition by several people she cares about. The goal of an intervention is to assure the overweight person that those present are deeply concerned about her welfare and want to support her in addressing her health issues and eating habits.

Interventions are a technique used in the recovery movement to encourage people involved in self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse, gambling, and overspending to get help. The technique is also used to encourage people with mental health issues and eating disorders to seek treatment. During an intervention, a group of friends and family members confronts the person who needs help by both expressing their heartfelt concern and offering concrete examples of how the behavior or condition is negatively affecting that person's life and the lives of others. The target of the intervention is then asked to enter treatment and offered support for that choice. The intervention group may also explain the ways in which the person will lose support if he does not follow through with the plan for treatment.

The risks of an obesity intervention are significant. Many overweight people have been the target of discrimination and cruelty throughout their lives. As a consequence, they experience great shame about their condition, and an intervention may feel like the sort of bullying they have become used to as a result of being overweight. For this reason, well-meaning friends and family members should not attempt intervention until they have spoken to an obesity specialist who has experience with obesity interventions. Failure to get professional help could make matters worse and further alienate the obese person from friends and family members.

The benefits of an obesity intervention, on the other hand, are also significant. If a person is so obese that she suffers from impaired mobility and chronic health problems, she may need strong support from friends and family to confront the situation and get treatment. Those who participate in an obesity intervention should be prepared to offer assistance to the obese person as he takes steps toward losing weight. The support may include offers to exercise together, care for pets or children while the person participates in a residential treatment program, or helping the obese person after undergoing weight-loss surgery.

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Post 4

Obese people know that they have a problem. Interventions--whether for obesity or substance abuse--seem designed to make the participants feel superior and self-important. It's intrusion and bullying you're allowed to feel good about. Only a spouse or physician should be confronting the obese person this way. I doubt it works often and, even when it does, I'm sure the person resents everyone who participated forever whether they will admit it or not. I was severely obese, I am now merely obese and still losing. Having people gang up on me would not have helped at all.

Post 3

@Fa5t3r - It's a personal thing. Hopefully anyone who cares enough to stage an intervention is going to know the person in question well enough to know if this would help.

And I also think it's a good idea to make sure you invite everyone, not just people who you are sure are going to back you up.

Post 2

@pleonasm - I don't think this is the right solution in every case, but I can definitely see where it might be in some cases. For example, I think that a person who is worried about their spouse should absolutely be honest about it. Hints are often worse for self esteem than a frank discussion.

Another situation is when it gets to the point where the obesity is severely impacting another person. For example, if they have to do things like act as a driver because their friend or family member can't fit behind the wheel.

I think in a case like that they are within their rights to put their foot down and stage an intervention in which they make it clear that they don't want to, or are not able to continue this way.

Post 1

The thing is, anyone with significant obesity already knows they have a problem. They've probably tried to fix it more than once and multiple attempts at weight control can end up being more dangerous than simply being obese.

So getting a bunch of friends and family together and putting conditions on someone's weight loss just seems like it would do a lot more harm than good. If you make them feel like they aren't going to be loved without losing weight it might just make them feel worse and eat even more.

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