Healthy Living: Mind Body Connection; Obesity & Mental Health

Updated 2 years ago

By- Dr. David PrescottHow is Your New Year’s Resolution Coming Along? A little more than a month into the new year, and for many of us our New Year’s Resolution is becoming a distant memory. The most common types of New Year’s Resolutions are those to improve our health, lose weight and exercise more. So why is this so difficult for many of us?Obesity and the Complexity of the Mind-Body Connection: The relationship between our minds and our bodies is important, but complex. In terms of obesity, psychologists have identified several psychological and emotional factors which play an important role in people’s struggle with obesity. • Obesity and Depression: Depression can be both a cause and a result of being overweight. Particularly with women, the risk of having clinical depression (major depression) increases nearly 40% with obesity. For many people, depression has become such a significant obstacle in their life that they need to address it first before they are able to adopt a successful weight management program. • Obesity and Eating Disorders: Many fad diets encourage people to avoid food, rather than simply reduce portions. Many experts believe that trying to skip meals actually increases a person’s risk for engaging in binge eating, where large quantities of food is consumed in a short period of time. Binge eating is often present in diagnosed eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia. • Obesity and Stress: Stress refers to general feelings of anxiety, chronic worry, and feeling run down. It is very difficult to address obesity while your stress level remains at high levels. Many people hope that if they lose weight they will feel less stressed, but this is rarely the case. Rather, working to balance and reduce life stress is the first step, and then focusing on healthier eating and exercise is the second step. The Psychology of Overeating: Two Potential Factors: Experts in the mind-body relationship and obesity have identified some important factors in the psychology of overeating. Identifying whether any of these factors are important in your own life can be the first step in finding a better way. 1. Not recognizing our own eating patterns: Many, many of our behaviors fall into recognizable patterns. However, in the bustle of everyday life we may fail to recognize these patterns. In terms of eating for example, many people overeat at the end of the day when they are trying to relax and unwind. Others eat reasonable portions at home but oversize portions when eating out. Writing down everything you eat and studying this for patterns helps you determine your own psychology around eating. 2. Recognizing your patterns but not wanting to change: Psychologists have recently started focusing on the strength of our drives to eat palatable food. Said another way, many people who struggle with obesity know their own eating patterns, but simple don’t feel compelled to change them. Psychological theories about why we make certain choices and how we decide between two competing goals offer some direction in cases like this. Psychological Tips for Addressing Obesity (from www.apa.org/healthcenter)• Think about what you eat and why. Track your eating habits by writing down everything you eat, including time of day and amount of food. Also record what was going through your mind at the time. Were you sad or upset with something? Or, had you just finished a stressful experience and felt the need for “comfort food?”• Cut down on portions while eating the same foods. Along with making dieting feel less depriving, you’ll soon find that the smaller portions are just as satisfying. This will also give you a platform to safely curb your appetite even more.• Losing weight is always easier when you have the support of friends and family. Try to enlist the entire household in eating a healthier diet. Many hospitals and schools also sponsor support groups made up of people who offer each other valuable encouragement and support. Research shows that people who participate in such groups lose more weight than going it alone.• Use the “buddy system.” Ask a friend or family member to be “on-call” for moral support when you’re tempted to stray from your new lifestyle. Just be sure you’re not competing with this person to lose weight.• Don’t obsess over “bad days” when you can’t help eating more. This is often a problem for women who tend to be overly hard on themselves for losing discipline. Look at what thoughts or feelings caused you to eat more on a particular day, and how you can deal with them in ways other than binge eating. For More Information: American Psychological Association: www.apa.org/helpcenterEastern Maine Medical Center: www.emmc.org


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