By ABCS RCM
The connection between a person’s body weight, eating behavior and overall health is complex. People can sometimes fixate on what they perceive as an ideal weight, which can distort their relationship with food. This unhealthy relationship with food can eventually develop into an eating disorder. However, a mental health approach that combines the therapeutic support of a nutritionist with experienced behavioral health treatments is a highly, effective method for treating an eating disorder.
Obesity and Overall Health:
Body weight, obesity and health are complex health issues. With genetics, eating behavior, societal influences and lifestyle choices all affecting an individual’s health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that excessive body weight is a serious concern because it is associated with poorer mental health outcomes, reduced quality of life.
As a health condition, the CDC cites obesity as one of the leading causes of death in the United States and worldwide, which includes illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, stroke as well as some types of cancer. However, simply prescribing weight loss as a solution to a person’s body weight concerns is not always the best solutions. When people attempt to reduce their health risks, their actions are sometimes ineffective and even harmful.
When people fixate on their body weight, this can create a dangerous cycle of weight gain and severe dieting. To many people’s surprise, this severe dieting does not produce permanent weight loss. Instead, this behavior can produce an unhealthy dieting behavior where a person’s body weight is not consistent. Extreme diets can damage people’s metabolism and their mental perceptions of food and eating. This means that individuals can end up in a worse place versus when they started dieting. Overtime, this behavior is actually very dangerous.
Research from Harvard Medical School states that eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating; impact over 30 million Americans. Beyond this number, many more Americans engage in disordered eating and unhealthy weight control behaviors. As a statistical fact, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder in the United States.
Misinformation and Unhealthy Attitudes:
Previously unsuccessful attempts to lose weight can lower people’s satisfaction with their body image. This, in turn, creates additional negative emotions and unhealthy behaviors. People who struggle with their body weight tend to have lower self-esteem. Their feelings of being overweight can help to set up a cycle for additional weight gain or the development of eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia.
Individuals at all body weights can respond to stress and anxiety by eating. This emotional-induced eating will likely only encourage more weight gain. An increase in body weight can create a feeling of lower self-esteem and anxiety in a person. People quickly become trapped in an unhealthy feedback loop of weight gain and dieting.
There is considerable confusion and misinformation about how body weight impacts people’s overall health. People should not view obesity or excessive body weight as the measure of their psychological happiness. Having excess body weight is not a moral failing and it is physically dangerous for people to have this attitude.
Instead, people should have a holistic understanding of mental and physical health and how this connects to their body weight. People should focus on healthy behaviors and physical well-being instead of body weight. A more effective approach should focus on behavior changes such as exercise and healthy eating. Body weight is only one piece of important health information. However, many people have a difficult time doing this alone. This is why they need the help of a trained nutritionist.
The Role of a Nutritionist:
Some people may not know what role a nutritionist plays in mental health treatments. A registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) provide help medical nutrition therapy. An RD or RDN will help people to:
* Talk about their eating habits and dieting approaches.
* Set realistic health goals, such as creating a realistic exercise plan.
* Generate a personalized nutrition plan.
An experienced nutritionist and/or dietitian can create a positive and nurturing relationship with individuals who are struggling with their body weight and unhealthy eating behaviors. This relationship is crucial if individuals are going to fully engage in nutritional counseling without out feeling judged or ashamed. A trained nutritionist can help patients understand their irrational feelings about food and body weight while also encouraging healthier associations with eating and body image.
A nutritionist is responsible for designing a meal plan based on their patient’s specific needs. A full nutrition assessment reveals current dietary intake, eating patterns, beliefs about food and weight, supplement use, who prepares meals as well as an overall history of that person’s body weight. Patients are encouraged to express their emotions, feelings and fears around food and body weight as well as the goals they wish to achieve. Ultimately, a nutritionist can help people challenging distorted feelings about food and eating. In time, patients will replace these mental distortions with more positive and healthy emotions and perceptions.
Who We Are:
For additional questions about the connection between body weight, obesity, physical health as well as mental health, contact the staff at Providers for Healthy Living. They have four convenient office locations in the Columbus Metro area. Their mental health programs provide a full range of treatment options for both children and adults. For more information about this topic, contact us at 614-664-3595.
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