Health and weight

Community weight management programmes

There are a number of weight management programmes being delivered in community settings in the UK. We talked to people who had attended SHINE (Self Help Independence Nutrition and Exercise), MEND (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition…Do it! Programme), and WATCH IT; a programme delivered by Leeds Primary Care Trust, and other programmes like the Transformed programme and Teen Academy. Community programmes for young people vary in what they offer but have the advantage that they always involve the opportunity to: 

• Meet others with weight problems
• Get advice about a healthy diet
Exercise
 
Sessions may be held on Saturdays or in the evenings after school. The people that we talked to had got involved in the schemes in a number of ways such as:

• Being referred by a doctor
• Being invited for an assessment at school
• Seeing an advert in a local paper
• Hearing about it from a friend, teacher or their parents had found out about it for them
What happens?
Programmes generally involve a wide array of activities including acting and dancing as well as sports and role play. The SHINE programme aims to boost confidence and help the young people who take part to deal with aggression and bullying. No-one is forced to take part in any activity – they can sit it out if they prefer. Some said that they had chosen to ‘sit it out’ for several weeks before they finally joined in.
What helped?
The programmes offer buddying and peer support which people liked because they were being advised by someone who had recently been through the programme themselves. People who had problems at school or at home were able to see a programme counsellor and everyone took part in role play that helped them to understand how to remain calm in difficult situations and resist bullying through displaying confidence. One girl said that attending her course was a bit like ‘High School Musical’ because it is young people who go and everyone is in the same boat with no bullies or name calling.
People also liked being given practical help with healthy eating and props including a ‘portion plate’ or a portion divided lunchbox. Those who had puzzled over why their brother or sister didn’t  seem to put on weight whatever they ate were pleased to have found an explanation when they learnt about ‘metabolism’ on the course. But the real benefit of the programme seems to be in how much more motivated young people feel when they are not trying to go it alone.
What didn’t help?
These programmes didn’t suit everyone. Gemma went to a ‘Watch It’ course and very much liked the young woman who worked with her, but she didn’t think the programme had helped her much – not least because the diet sheets included too many things that she did not enjoy eating.
Successes
The young people we talked to thought that SHINE had been really successful in building their confidence and self-esteem. They had made lots of new friends and found that they could really enjoy sports, swimming and activities in an environment where they didn’t feel that people judged their size and appearance.

Some of the success stories are quite dramatic, for example Chelsea lost 6.5 stone (42 kg) over 2 years through gradual and steady weight loss. Like many other young people we spoke to, she stayed involved with the programme helping out with new members. Chelsea has talked about the programme at conferences, something she never would have imagined doing before.

Last reviewed July 2017.
Last updated July 2017.

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