Cando Health & Care - Thinking Differently Together - May 2021

Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System (ICS) 1. Introduction Online event Wednesday 19 May 2021 ‘Thinking Differently Together’ about… Supporting People Living With Obesity Sarah LeBrocq opened by sharing her experience of living with obesity for most of her life. Sarah told us how she had spent most of her life ‘hating herself’, feeling like a failure and wondering why this was happening to her despite her eating less and moving more. In 2012 she took part in a weight loss TV show broadcast on Sky ‘Fat: The Fight of my Life’ with a view to this changing her life. Sarah lost 8 and a half stone on the programme and went from doing very little exercise to completing an Olympic distance triathlon at the end of it. After the programme, Sarah continued with the exercise and healthy eating as she had enjoyed it so much, yet despite this she noticed that over a couple of years the weight had started increasing once more. Concerned she must be doing something wrong, Sarah investigated further with professionals and none of them seemed to know why. With a degree in Chemistry, Sarah was driven to know why this was happening - it didn’t make any sense to her, so she began to explore the subject of Obesity and the data and research related to it. One research study looked at why contestants in ‘The Biggest Loser’ after losing a significant amount of weight, almost always, put their weight back on. A lot of it is down to our physiological make up and ‘set point theory’ which is where your body wants to go back to a ‘safe’ setting it has been at before, so you are fighting against your own body’s biology. What Sarah understood is ‘that if I am living with obesity it is not my fault; there are so many reasons why people live with obesity’. In the Government commissioned Foresight report from 2007 it was identified that there are over 100 different factors contributing to why someone lives with obesity: Things like genetics play a huge part, along with biology and the environment we live in and sociological factors. For her, understanding this was like a real ‘light bulb’ moment. It was the first time in her life she was able to realise that this isn’t just her fault – you can’t change your genetics, and after genetic screening she discovered she does have genes that make her more prone to living with obesity than other people. This light bulb moment helped Sarah just accept that this is who she is – it doesn’t mean she likes the way she looks and she is aware that living with obesity comes with increased risk of co-morbidities, but she now knows it is something she will have to live with for the rest of her life. She knows she will be able to lose weight again and probably put that on again, but it’s about how she manages that and how she can live a healthier life now. That has been a real shift change in how Sarah thinks about herself and she’s now a lot kinder to herself than before – instead of fighting against her body she is looking for ways to work with it and manage it to be a healthier version of herself. When you are living with obesity it’s no longer about trying to lose weight; its about trying to retain some weight loss and its about living a healthier life instead of just being told by society it’s your fault and you have to lose weight – everyone can lose weight but people with obesity can’t keep the weight off. We need to come away from focussing on losing weight – its not just as simple as eat less and move more and it’s not just someone’s fault. People shouldn’t feel like a failure when they diet, lose weight and put it back on and that is why Sarah does the job she does now, as an Obesity advocate, working with the Government, policy makers and the media trying to get the message out there. Sarah is starting a new charity which it is hoped will become the Obesity version of Diabetes UK, as a ‘go to’ resource for people living with obesity. Sarah LeBrocq “Telling someone with obesity to simply eat less and move more is like telling someone with depression that they need to simply cheer up.” Professor Arya Sharma 1 | Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System