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National Easter Seal Society for Crippled Children and Adults
Obesity is a common problem for the mentally retarded and nonretarded populations. Prevalence estimates ranging from 40 to 80 million obese Americans have been reported. The relationship between obesity and cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, and other health related problems is strong. Also, the greater the degree of obesity, the higher the risk of medical problems. In addition to the health problems associated with obesity, the obese mentally retarded person is likely to be the object of increased social prejudice and nonacceptance as a result of being mentally retarded and obese.
Fortunately, this solution does not need to be an intractable one. Van Itallie cited studies reporting a positive influence for weight reduction on health. Another treatment goal has been enhanced self-esteem. Given these promising outcomes for weight reduction, the field of obesity has witnessed an explosion of diet programs and exercise regimes to promote weight loss. These programs have varied in their initial success but nearly all have failed to produce long-term maintenance of weight loss. The application of behavioral procedures to the problem of obesity has produced more promising results. This approach has also been successfully extended to the mentally retarded population.
This article describes the treatment rationale and procedures for a behavioral self-control package that has been developed for the obese retarded population. Implications of this approach for professionals concerned with rehabilitation efforts for mentally retarded persons will be delineated.