‘How to lose weight and keep it off’ was the subject of the first installment in a new series of interactive health seminars organised by Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar’s (WCMC-Q) Sahtak Awalan campaign.
The first seminar in the new ‘Ask the Expert’ series began with a presentation by Dr Ravinder Mamtani, WCMC-Q’s Professor of Public Health, at the Diplomatic Club on Wednesday 22 January 2014. After the presentation, members of the audience had the opportunity to ask Dr Mamtani their own questions about weight loss and engage in an interactive discussion with the professor. Dr Mamtani said:
Losing weight brings many benefits but the problem is that people who successfully lose weight often put it back on. The aim of the seminar was to explain approaches to weight management that allow the individual to maintain a healthy weight in the long-term.’
Being overweight or obese is associated with a number of serious health issues, including type-2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. The number of people who are overweight or obese has been growing steadily in recent decades: 68% of adults in the US are overweight and 34% are obese. In Qatar, 70% of adults are overweight and 41% are obese.
Dr. Mamtani’s seminar explored the reasons behind the growing trend, the science behind weight gain and loss, the value of physical activity, the environmental factors that contribute to weight gain, and the most effective strategies for losing weight and keeping it off. He said:
In my experience, fad diets tend not to be effective because even if the dieter loses some weight they are likely to go back to their old habits and put it back on again. The best method is to give the individual knowledge and practical skills to make sensible, informed choices about what they eat and how much they exercise. Once they have achieved their healthy new weight, the skills they have learned will allow them to maintain that weight, leading to long-term health benefits and improved quality of life. It is also important that people realise that they really do have the power to lose weight and to keep it off if they learn how to do so. It is about skill power as much as willpower.’
All seats were taken for the seminar, with people from all nationalities, ages and walks of life keen to hear the best ways to lose weight and stay healthy. Ayman Alawef was one of them. He said:
The information in the talk was very useful. I have tried to lose weight many times and it’s true that it is difficult to keep it off. I think the most useful message for me was how important regular physical activity is for weight management. I also think we are eating too many fatty and starchy foods, so these are areas that can be targeted.’
For Weam Barghouthi, the concept of an informal, interactive forum about health was of great benefit to people. She also questioned who oversaw the actions of weight loss clinics across Qatar, many of which, she said, promoted a high protein/low carbohydrate diet. This is contrary to the advice given by Dr Mamtani who espoused a balanced, calorie-controlled diet in conjunction with moderate exercise. There were also other health professionals at the seminar.
Maryam Al Hamaq, from Qatar Diabetes Association, came to hear about the latest information about weight loss. She said:
My work goes along with what the doctor presented about how physical activity and diet is a huge part of keeping the weight off and how we can incorporate that with our patients. It’s good to know that there are a lot of changes that people can make. I think an event like this is huge step forward for the community as Qatar has one of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the world so it’s good to keep people informed about their health.’
The Ask the Expert series is part of WCMC-Q’s Sahtak Awalan: Your Health First initiative, a five-year campaign to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to adopt healthier lifestyles. Dr Mamtani said:
The great thing about the seminars is that everybody has the chance to contribute their ideas and to ask questions. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to address the real issues people face when they try to improve their own or their family’s health. I hope the public will come along to join the discussions, learn how they can manage their own health and contribute their own thoughts to the seminar.’
Future Ask the Expert seminars will be held at the Diplomatic Club bi-monthly. Entry is free for all members of the public and no invitation is required.