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7. Adapt Weight Loss Programs To Meet the Needs of Diverse Patients

Standard treatment approaches for overweight and obesity must be tailored to the needs of various patients or patient groups. Large individual variation exists within any social or cultural group; furthermore, substantial overlap among subcultures occurs within the larger society.

There is, therefore, no “cookbook” or standardized set of rules to optimize weight reduction with a given type of patient. However, to be more culturally sensitive and to incorporate patient characteristics in obesity treatment programs: consider and adapt the setting and staffing for the program; consider how the obesity treatment program integrates into other aspects of patient health care and self care; and expect and allow for program modifications based on patient responses and preferences.

The issues of weight reduction after age 65 involve such questions as: does weight loss reduce risk factors in older adults; are there risks associated with obesity treatment that are unique to older adults; and does weight reduction prolong the lives of older adults? Although there is less certainty about the importance of treating overweight at older ages than at younger ages, a clinical decision to forgo obesity treatment in older adults should be guided by an evaluation of the potential benefit of weight reduction and the reduction of risk for future cardiovascular events.

In the obese patient who smokes, smoking cessation is a major goal of risk factor management. Many well-documented health benefits accompany smoking cessation, but a major obstacle to cessation has been the attendant weight gain observed in about 80 percent of quitters. This weight gain averages 4.5 to 7 lb, but in 13 percent of women and 10 percent of men, weight gain exceeds 28 lb. Weight gain that accompanies smoking cessation has been quite resistant to most dietary, behavioral, or physical activity   interventions.

The weight gained with smoking cessation is less likely to produce negative health consequences than would continue smoking. For this reason, smoking cessation should be strongly advocated regardless of baseline weight.

Prevention of weight gain through diet and physical activity should be stressed. For practical reasons, it may be prudent to avoid initiating smoking cessation and weight loss therapy simultaneously. If weight gain ensues after smoking cessation, it should be managed vigorously according to the guidelines I provide later.

Although short-term weight gain is a common side effect of smoking cessation, this gain does not rule out the possibility of long-term weight control.

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