We understand that if we want to lose weight we need to eat less and exercise more... so why do we have an obesity epidemic?
It's proven that Americans collectively shed billions of pounds each year, but billions of pounds are put right back on.
In this country, the average person starts and stops at least four diets within a given year -- and 99% of those diets fail.
We don't need more information about diets, pills or surgeries. We need a public education campaign to put the spot light on the real cause of obesity: Emotional eating.
Emotional eating is defined as using food for relief or reward, and it's the number one reason that diets fail. We need to help those who are stuck in this unhealthy cycle, and most importantly we need to teach our children that food is not an effective way to handle uncomfortable feelings.
We don't overeat because we lack willpower; we overeat because we're not willing to let go of the comfort that food provides. We don't need an updated Food Pyramid. We need to understand why we're willing to sacrifice our health, and ultimately our lives, for food.
More than 30,000,000 -- yes, 30 MILLION -- Americans are on antidepressants. But it doesn't take being a psychiatrist to understand that we're an unhappy people. We're unsatisfied. We're frustrated. We overeat to reward ourselves when life is disappointing. We overeat to calm ourselves when we're anxious, depressed or under stress. We eat when we don't know how to fill our time. We use food as a substitution for love, money, stimulation and success.
Food is the most readily available and legal form of self-medication, which may explain why so many of us are turning to it as our drug of choice. As parents, we wouldn't tolerate our toddlers and young children drinking alcohol on a daily basis, or smoking pot, or shooting heroin, and yet, we allow our children to eat themselves into obesity.
If we didn't reap an emotional benefit from food, we wouldn't be willing to sacrifice so much for it. Did you know that someone only 50 with obesity related hypertension or elevated cholesterol has raised their chances of having a heart attack from 5% to 50%?
Obesity even affects our unborn children. In Georgia, infant mortality has skyrocketed because so many women suffer from obesity related hypertension and diabetes. Each year there are more of us seeking the soothing effects of food. Obesity has increased by more than 50% in the last two decades alone.
Ultimately, this becomes a political issue because extra fat is shockingly costly, not just in terms of health risks for those of us who carry the weight, but to the weight it puts on our health system. It's estimated that obesity costs the country over $100 BILLION each year, half of which is paid for by Medicaid and Medicare, to cover medical costs for diseases associated with being overweight.
The sad thing is that this can all be prevented, but not with diet and exercise... at least not with just diet and exercise alone.
Emotional eating is the reason we can't control our weight. I did an Internet survey asking 17,000 dieters why they broke their diets. Almost 100% said it was either because of stress, depression or boredom. Over 50% also said that they were going through a major life transition and they needed food to cope.
We can start asking ourselves different questions. Instead of asking what should we eat, we can ask ourselves what are we really hungry for and how can we take the steps towards having a more satisfying life?
Emotional eating is a learned behavior. We learned how to cope with life by eating. We can unlearn it. It takes a willingness to face ourselves head on. We can't eliminate uncomfortable emotions, but by learning how to deal with our feelings in more effective ways, we can Continue
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