Dr. Tamara Sheffield
It's the oldest joke in the book:
Patient: "Doctor, doctor, it's hurts when I do this."
Doctor: "Then don't do that."
If only it were that simple.
Doctors routinely advise overweight and obese patients about the dangers of their condition. But obesity is a complicated situation. The prescription - eating healthy and exercising vigorously - is obvious, but the condition results from a web of personal choices, peer and family behaviors and attitudes.
"There really is no cure of obesity," explains Dr. Tamara Sheffield, director of the Intermountain Health Care's LiVe program. "It's not like someone drops the weight and it's over. It's not like smoking. If you can quit smoking for good, you've won. But we all have to eat every day. It's a battle of making the right choices of what you put into your body. This requires an intensive focus on lifelong behavior modification."
Six years ago, Sheffield (a veteran of other public health campaigns) helped develop the LiVe program. On the front end, the program is a social media and traditional marketing campaign targeted at middle school kids, who are at the age where they are making their own choices about food. (Remember all the junk you put in your belly when yo were in middle school?) Clever commercials, tweets, Facebook yuks, a hip website, even and iPhone app, are all designed to engage surly teens about how the choices they make can affect them not only later in life but right now.
"Weight in itself isn't the health problem," Sheffield says. "It's what it leads to later in life - cardiovascular problems, diabetes, increased rates of cancer. It's a hard thing to sell to kids. So we focus on how weight affects kids now. It affects energy levels, performance in school and social interactions."
Eight to Live By
The guiding principles of the LiVe initiative
1. Always eat breakfast - and make it healthy
2. Eat more fruits and vegetables
3. Limit - or eliminate - sweetened drinks
4. Limit screen time
5. Increase time doing physical activities
6. Eat meals together as a family
7. Be positive about food
8. Don't criticize about weight
Get the App
Android, iPod Touch and iPhone owners can download the LiVe app. The program can help you track eating habits and has a nifty idea generator for healthy meals and ways to get active. Visit intermountainlive.org for links to download to your device.