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Weight Loss Surgery: Part Of Makeover Culture

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Is weight loss surgery the new 'cosmetic surgery'? Is it now a personal choice for those looking for enhanced physical appearance rather than purely on health grounds? Does weight loss surgery have unwelcome psychological consequences?

These are some of the issues to be addressed at a one day conference on the psychology of weight and obesity, 'Size Matters', organised by the Centre for Appearance Research (CAR) at the University of the West of England. The conference will be held at the Watershed Media Centre in Bristol on 22 June 2009 and will cover current medical, psychosocial and critical approaches to understanding and managing body weight.

Dr Meredith Jones, from the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia, will argue that weight loss surgery (gastric bypass, gastroplasty and lap-band surgery) is becoming culturally accepted and used in the same way as cosmetic surgery. She says, “These operations occupy a fascinating grey area between the medical and the cosmetic – an area where health and aesthetics are often confused. My talk will look at whether weight loss surgery is becoming normalised as part of a global 'makeover culture' and how 'anti-fat' messages in the media outweigh concerns about health.”

Professor Jane Ogden (University of Surrey) will focus on 'The psychology of obesity surgery' in particular looking at the factors behind deciding to have surgery, the impact of successful surgery and why surgery sometimes fails. Professor Ogden says, “Although surgery is a non psychological approach to managing obesity, the process of having the surgery has a series of psychological consequences. In particular, by taking away some of the choices around food it can make people feel more in control of their eating behaviour. Such processes can help us understand more about the thought processes involved and how we can use this knowledge to improve approaches to weight loss.”

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Lucy Aphramor (NHS and Coventry University), a specialist dietician who works in the NHS, will argue that the standard weight loss approach for prevention and treatment of heart disease should be replaced with a Health at Every size (HAES) approach. “I have looked closely as the benefits of weight control in prevention and treatment of heart disease, and I believe we need to shift our focus to a HAES approach which would be more effective. We need a radical overhaul of approaches to body weight management for more inclusive, effective health care.”

Professor Michael Gard (Charles Stuart University, Australia) will discuss how scientific research in this field has produced conflicting findings when seeking to support commonsense explanations of obesity. “How we respond to obesity - what we think and do about it” he argues, “will be matters of politics and social pressure, not science, which is another way of saying that obesity is a moral issue.”

Professor Nichola Rumsey, VTCT Professor of Appearance Psychology and Co-Director of CAR says, “Our expert speakers include academics and practitioners internationally acknowledged for their work in this field. The meeting covers psychosocial and surgical interventions aimed at reducing body weight in those who are large, as well as taking a critical look at what impact these treatments can have on those who seek them.”

Other key speakers include: Jeremy Gauntlett-Gilbert (Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, Bath); Professor Andrew Hill (University of Leeds) and Professor Nichola Rumsey.

'Size Matters?' is the latest in a series of highly successful conferences organised by CAR that specifically highlight current psychosocial research, theory and good practice around appearance-related issues.



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