Many experts consider obesity to be an American epidemic. Obesity is commonly seen as a consequence of unhealthy eating and lack of physical activity; however, being well above normal weight is often multifactorial, based on genetic, behavioral, psychological, and environmental factors. Yet, psychological factors are often overlooked, which can be detrimental because addressing the emotions behind the overeating can lead to healthy weight management.
Studies suggest a strong relationship between obesity and depression, especially among women. The American Psychological Association reports that there is a 37 percent increase of major depression among obese women. Like many psychological disorders, anxiety is an emotion that can have a domino effect on your health. Often, stress leads to depression and depression can lead to poor food choices, lethargy, and decreased physical activity, which can result in weight gain. Gaining weight can cause problems with self-confidence and body-image, which can lead to eating disorders, major depression and further weight gain. In one study 51 percent of a group of obese people had a history of major depression.
Typically, individuals are identified as obese if they are more than 20 percent over their recommended weight, which is calculated with build, sex, age, and height in mind. The National Institute of Health (NIH) specifically identifies obesity as a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or greater. A BMI of 30 illustrates that you are approximately 30 pounds overweight. The BMI is calculated using your weight in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared. However, it is important to keep in mind that BMI is a good gauge; not a direct measurement of body fat.
Obesity can lead to serious health problems including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, cancer, gallstones, reproductive troubles, gallbladder disease, gout and gouty arthritis, chronic fatigue, osteoarthritis, fatty liver disease, asthma, and sleep apnea. Successfully managing your weight requires a lifestyle emphasizing good health and a positive attitude. A physician can help you set up a safe diet and exercise plan. A psychologist can help you find ways to stick to your management plan and cope with unhealthy feelings.
Watch Rudy Nydegger, PhD, discuss obesity and weight loss
Eating disorders are marked by extreme conflicted, unstable, and often secreted behaviors in eating. Nearly all eating disorders are accompanied by shame and guilt. Common warning signs include severely cutting back or overdoing food ingestion and acute, irrational, agonizing, and uncontrollable fears associated with body image. Generally, eating disorders are long-term and co-exist with other mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, personality disorders, and addictive disorders. Studies show that of those diagnosed with eating disorders over 90 percent are women between the ages of 12 and 25; however, boys and older men and women are also affected by this disease. Five to 15 percent of patients treated for anorexia and bulimia and 35 percent of patients treated for binge-eating are male. Eating disorders are multifactorial, based on social, biological, and behavioral dynamics. Often, eating disorders can result in serious health conditions such as kidney failure and heart problems and can damage physical development. If left untreated eating disorders can lead to death. Psychological care is effective for many eating disorders. The three main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.
1. Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder marked by extreme leanness, starvation, an inability or refusal to maintain a healthy weight, an abnormal fear of weight gain, and a tremendously distorted perception of body image. Symptoms include: excessive exercise, fragile and porous bones, self-induced vomiting, easily broken hair and nails, unnecessary dieting, dry skin, increased downy hair growth over the entire body, mishandling laxatives, diuretics, and enemas, muscle loss, avoidance of food and meals, acute constipation, low blood pressure, exhaustion, constantly feeling cold, and atypical eating behaviors such as designating safe foods, cutting foods into tiny pieces, obsessive-compulsive food arrangement, weighing food, and excessive calorie counting.
2. Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder marked by binging and purging, extreme weight fluctuations, and feelings of loathing and shame. Often people diagnosed with bulimia nervosa have a normal weight; however, they partake in constant cycles of extreme overeating followed by extreme weight loss from vomiting, fasting, excessive exercise, and mishandling laxatives, diuretics, and enemas. Symptoms include: binging and purging cycles, abnormal fear of weight gain, severely distorted perception of body image, secreted eating habits, gastrointestinal problems, kidney problems, dehydration, chronically tender throat, enlarged neck glands, decaying teeth, reflux disorder, and intestinal problems.
3. Binge-eating disorder is an eating disorder marked by obesity and obsessive overeating. The weight problems associated with this disorder occur because the binge-eating episodes are not followed by purging, fasting, or excessive exercising as with bulimia nervosa. Symptoms include: eating alone, eating extremely fast, forcing ingestion even when full, obesity, and feelings of shame, depression, severe anxiety, and guilt.
More Information Joann V. Hendelman, PhD
Registrant since 1991
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