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New BPS report shows psychology is key to beating the obesity problem

24 September 2019

Policymakers must do more than tell people to show greater willpower if government is to crack the obesity problem, says a new report from the British Psychological Society.

Written by a group of expert psychologists, ‘Psychological perspectives on obesity: Addressing policy, practice and research priorities’ says obesity is a complex problem.

Chartered BPS member Dr Angel Chater, one of its authors, says:

“To address obesity, we need an understanding of all its causes – biological, psychological and social – and use approaches to behaviour change for prevention and weight management that are informed by psychology.”

The report calls for government to ensure every initiative aimed at promoting a healthy weight is informed by psychological evidence. It says weight management services are best delivered by multidisciplinary teams that include psychologists.

All health professionals working in obesity services should be trained in the psychological understanding of obesity so they understand the factors that can contribute to the condition and to the success or failure of treatment.

Sarb Bajwa, chief executive of the BPS, said:

“The government acknowledged that obesity was a threat to the health of the nation back in 1991, but the problem has continued to get worse. We need a similar effort on obesity to the one we have seen on smoking.

It has taken action at all levels for decades, from government policy to helping individual smokers, but we are now seeing significant reductions in the level of smoking and the health problems it causes.

Psychologists have the science and clinical experience to help the health service do the same for obesity.”

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