Psychology of Obesity
By Jerry E. Gillman
Being overweight and obese is the result of an energy imbalance in the body that is caused by consuming more calories than necessary for energy required. The solution to simply consume fewer calories sounds simple but there are a variety of factors that play a role in obesity which makes control of the problem difficult and complex.
Sixty-Seven percent of Americans are obese or overweight with at least one hundred twenty million morbidly obese. The problem is not unique to industrial nations such as the Unites States. It has spread worldwide to developing countries such as India where more than one billion people and an estimated 50 million are morbidly obese attributable in a large way to recent life style changes.
Obesity has disastrous consequences on a person’s health and is associated with a number of diseases including type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, obstructive sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, chronic infections, hypertension, and psychological disorders.
Society has often blamed obesity on the individual feeling that an imperfect body reflects an imperfect person. There are, however a number of contributing factors to obesity such as environment, genetics, energy dense foods, lack of exercise, ethnic culture, psychological issues and social pressures.
A primary cause of psychological issues for people who are obese is bias against obesity, says William J. Medick, Ph.D. a psychologist who works with morbidly obese patients in the LivLite Weight Management Program. “The prevailing misconception is that obese people are lazy, eat all the time, and lack self discipline,” says Dr. Medick. “This can lead to self- blame, guilt, shame, depression and social withdrawal.”
Many people eat in response to negative emotions such as boredom, sadness, or anger. It has been observed that women with the most severe eating problems are also likely to have symptoms of depression and low self-esteem. These women may have more difficulty losing weight, and keeping it off, than other people.
Some individuals use food to fill emptiness, provide good feelings, and sooth job pressures and family conflicts. Often eating has nothing to do with hunger. This is emotional eating and change takes energy, willingness and commitment to self- change.
Bariatric Surgery is an effective tool for weight loss when non surgical attempts have failed. With Bariatric Surgery initial weight loss will reduce or eliminate illnesses and complications but education and follow up are a necessary component of treatment. They increase the chances of long-term success and assist the patient with guidelines for nutritional supplementation, moderate exercise and proper diet.
Having the surgery is a first step to lasting weight loss but long term behavioral change still needs to happen and that is where after care programs come into play. Support is ultimately the one part of the surgical weight loss process that can make a major difference in achieving and maintaining long term weight loss. Make it a Lifestyle.com offers comprehensive after care programs created by patients who have successfully undergone Bariatric Surgery and successfully maintained the weight loss over time. There are several different support programs available but basic programs include on line forums, seminars, webinars with medical advisory board members, fitness advise, life style social events, “buddy up opportunities”, access to articles, blogs, and newsletters. Statistics prove that people involved in an after-care program have a greater success rate for meeting and maintaining their goals than those who are not.
Because of the psychological components of morbid obesity behavioral modification has been shown to be necessary for lasting results. Non-compliant patients fail to match their behavior to clinical expectations. Willpower alone will not solve obesity problems and it is necessary to learn new ways to deal with feelings that lead to over eating and subsequent weight gain.