Food is the fuel that supports every activity of our lives: physical growth, brain development, exercise, creativity, problem-solving, social interaction, work … none of it is possible without food.
Americans are blessed with an overabundance of food. We don’t have to devote nearly all of our waking hours to hunting, raising, or finding the next meal: It’s as simple as a trip to the grocery store, fast-food restaurant, or convenience store.
Despite this, or perhaps because of it, America is in the midst of an obesity epidemic. The National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 70 percent of Americans are either overweight or obese. Nearly 21 percent of adolescents age 12 to 19 are obese, according to the CDC. Our children are on track to be the least healthy generation.
Is the problem that there is so much food available without physical exertion? Or that affordable and accessible food is often high in calories and low in nutrient value? Is it a lack of knowledge that has gotten us into this overweight state? Or is it that in an environment of food plenty, humans are genetically destined to obesity? Do our relationships with food make things more difficult?
If you are like most Americans, you promised yourself that 2018 would be the year to do something about your weight. March is National Nutrition Month and seems like a great time to check up on those resolutions and offer some extra help.
When your body needs food, the stomach, intestines, and pancreas send signals to the brain that trigger the sensation of hunger, making you want to eat. As you eat, the digestive system sends signals to the brain that indicate satiety. Running parallel to this process, and sometimes circumventing it, is the reward process. Eating is enjoyable. Seeing, smelling, and thinking about food can trigger a desire to eat, even when you’re not hungry. The enjoyment of eating causes us, on occasion, to eat far more than we should.
Dieting and reducing caloric intake magnifies the body’s appetite signals. As you reduce calories, the body’s appetite regulating system can go into overdrive, sending increasingly frantic hunger signals to the brain, and decreasing the body’s sensitivity to the sensation of being full. Throw in additional physical activity in the form of exercise and the body begins to desire more calories.
And that’s just the physiological component of weight management. There is nearly always a psychological component, too. Depression, low self-esteem, and a history of trauma are often contributing factors as well.
If losing weight were as easy as pushing one’s chair away from the table, everyone would be thin!
That’s not to say the task is impossible, or not worth the effort. Obesity brings with it a number of health risks, including diabetes, heart disease, back problems and joint damage, to name just a few. The purpose of this article isn’t to dwell on those issues, nor is it to lecture you about what you should be eating and how much. Rather, our goal is to provide you with some “food for thought” when it comes to the psychology of your diet.
At New Vista, we help people overcome a variety of psychological issues, including problems with food. We help our clients address any underlying psychological issues that may be present to help them achieve and maintain success. Significant weight loss can bring with it a whole new set of issues, as the individual’s relationships within family and social networks change.
New Vista can help clients:
- Identify when they are truly hungry
- Provide coping strategies to deal with hunger driven by boredom, stress, anxiety
- Identify what triggers overeating
- Recognize their eating patterns and change them
- Strengthen their sense of self-worth and self-esteem
- Address underlying issues that may be contributing to overeating
- Accept weight loss as a lifestyle change, not a diet
Eating habits are often learned. They can be deep-seated, with cultural, family, social, and economic roots. Working with the professionals at New Vista, clients can begin to change these habits and create new, healthier lives for themselves and their families.