Addressing weight loss through occupational therapy

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One of the most common risks associated with diabetes, stroke, and heart disease is being overweight.

The World Health Organization defines being overweight as a body mass index of 25 or more, obesity is considered a BMI of 30 or more. Due to the obesity epidemic in America, there is an urgent call to address weight management across primary care interventions. Many individuals are aware of their weight issues but may not realize how significant of an increased risk theyíre at for serious chronic and potentially fatal conditions due to their weight. Even those who are aware of these risks may still find themselves struggling to manage their weight and health due to lack of resources beyond the myriad of fad diets and quick fix workouts being advertised everywhere a person turns.

Weight issues can also lead to joint pain, fatigue, difficulty breathing, and other symptoms. These weight-related issues often further limit a personís engagement or participation in meaningful and necessary daily activities. These limitations can spiral into a vicious cycle in many cases, as the person becomes more limited in activities, the weight tends to increase. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions can also creep in at this point and further complicate a personís attempt to lose weight and feel healthier. Sadly, a lot of individuals will feel hopeless and trapped in the position they find themselves with minimal support to move forward.

So what does a person do, who do they seek out for help? An occupational therapist can be a lifeline for people in initiating progress toward their health goals.

An occupational therapist reviews a personís prior level of function, evaluates their current level of function, and works directly with the patient to develop measurable and actionable goals. An occupational therapist also has extensive training and resources in regards to collaborating with providers to monitor medical conditions associated with weight-related issues. A patientís safety and overall health is always the therapistís highest priority. Most insurances will cover occupational therapy services after a referral has been submitted by a provider. Accessing insurance benefits for occupational therapy decreases the financial burden/barrier to utilizing services that will help the patient meet their health goals.

The American Occupational Therapy Association has organized themes associated with best practice into actionable terms organized using the person-environment-occupation model (Law et al., 1996; see Table 1) to facilitate direct application by clinicians. These themes and treatment approaches are displayed below the chart. Consider speaking with your provider about accessing occupational therapy services if youíre struggling with your weight and health.

Information: Idaho Pain Clinic, idahopainclinic.com or 208-263-9757

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