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How To Fight Obesity

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Health Behavior Change and Treatment Adherence: Evidence-based Guidelines for Improving Healthcare, by Leslie Martin, Kelly Haskard-Zolnierek and M. Robin DiMatteo, synthesizes the results from more than 50 years of empirical 9780195380408research, resulting in simple, powerful, and practical guidance for health professionals who want to know the most effective strategies for helping their clients to put long-term health-relevant behavior changes into practice.  In the original post below, Leslie Martin Professor of Psychology, LaSierra University., looks at Michelle Obama’s fight against obesity.

Michelle Obama is taking on America’s obesity problem—starting with kids. But health behaviors are notoriously difficult to change, and food-related modifications are especially challenging because they require adjustments in an area that we are forced to encounter multiple times each day. Going “cold turkey” from food is simply not possible—we have to eat! And exercise—well, we don’t have time, it’s not fun—the excuses come easily. Michelle, along with the rest of us, needs some tools with which to address this obesity problem.

While not magical, the three-factor model is both simple and powerful. A review of decades of research on adherence and health behavior change reveals that three components must be in place in order for individuals to successfully adopt and maintain the healthy behaviors to which they aspire. First, people must have information—they have to really understand what it is that they need to do, and why. Second, people must be motivated—they have to want to make the change (sometimes this stems from a good understanding of their medical issue and the repercussions associated with failing to make changes, but there are many other potent motivators). Third, people need strategies—barriers will be encountered and obstacles will arise, so plans must be in place for dealing with these. Making healthy behavior rewarding in the short term, even if the ultimate goal will take much longer to accomplish, is also an important strategy; and many others, all solidly grounded in empirical research, are outlined in our book.

The Information-Motivation-Strategy model is relevant to a whole host of health behaviors, not just weight management. It emphasizes the pivotal role that provider-patient communication plays at each stage in the process and recognizes that there is no single strategy that works for everyone—instead tailored, multifaceted approaches work best. Despite its strengths, there is nothing high-tech or expensive about the IMS model, which makes it especially compelling as we strive to improve the quality and efficiency of our healthcare systems.

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