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CON Public Webinar #3: Answers to Viewers' Questions

Click here to view the webinar on our archive page. 

Dr. Michael Vallis answers viewers' questions following his webinar 'Stemming the Tide: The Importance of Sustained Health Behaviour in Achieving Best Weight' (April 27, 2016).

What is (your) definition of “best weight” versus “ideal weight”?

Ideal weight is a concept that should be disposed of – ideal weight is a number that has been created out of the context of evidence. It began with an insurance company in the 1940s trying to define what people should weigh for insurance purposes. It has morphed into a goal weight set by many weight loss programs and it has been a source of delusion to individuals who see it as the realization of all their dreams come true. Truth is, the more committed a person is to achieving “ideal” weight, the more likely they will fail. The scientific evidence is overwhelming that, once a person has achieved a high weight, one’s biology will go to great lengths to protect that high weight. Giving up the notion of ideal weight allows a person to focus on their best weight. Best weight is the weight that you can achieve and maintain and that maximizes health and quality of life. Best weight can vary over time as one adapts to a new lifestyle. It is realistic, sustainable and healthy. It reflects the best a person can be given the circumstances of their life and resources.

Do you need volunteers for future research or programs and if so how do we find out more?

Contacting your local university medical centre or clinical psychology program is a good way of finding out what is going on in research. As well, become a member of the Canadian Obesity Network if you are a professional, and sign up for their public newsletter here.

At almost 400 pounds and after 40 years of losing and regaining hundreds of pounds at a time, at the age of 56 and now plagued with several comorbidities, how do I stay positive and find the energy to keep trying to save my own life, when there are absolutely no (affordable) resources in the city/province I'm living in, including the luxury of having my own doctor instead of having to go to a walk in clinic? This IS the reality of some, if not most, morbidly obese Canadians.

I hope this response does not sound insensitive, because I am very aware of the negative consequences of large ups and downs in weight that leave a person much worse off than before they started. Yet, I would like to make the following two statements:

1. There is always HOPE. Life is about meaning and dignity. Those living with morbid obesity need to be supported to find what they can do within the resources available to them. I like to remind my patients (as well as myself) that “your next choice can be a healthy choice – regardless of your previous choices.” Realistic goals and sensitive support of health choices can go a long way to re-establish hope.

2. The bigger you are, the more weight you will lose. That being said, I encourage you to focus on giving yourself credit for your behaviours and let your weight take care of itself.

How can these concepts be used in schools to help develop health promoting schools so weight gain is less likely?

This is a great question, and I would recommend that in educational contexts we be as transparent as possible. Put health-promoting ideas on the table and encourage youth to define these for themselves. Our children have inherent power but they need our guidance to allow this power to rise to the surface.

Is there any literature that you can recommend for further studying?

I recommend the Canadian Obesity Network’s book Best Weight (free download for CON's professional members) as well as the book Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink.