- January 31st, 2012
A couple of days ago I had what some people would call an "enlightenment." I was reading my psychology textbook (currently reading about personality types and how they develop), when a flash went through my head. And that was "I want to solve the obesity epidemic."
Except, the thing is the obesity epidemic isn't the problem. This is a theory I've had for quite awhile. Much like how emaciation isn't a problem when it comes to anorexia; it's the dangerous behaviours that cause the emaciation that are the problem.
The problem is disordered eating.
Disordered eating, disordered health. Disordered health in a population, and you'll see health problems skyrocketing.
Looking over the statistics and studies surrounding this so-called "epidemic," I think the correlations are pretty strong. In the past 10 years, all of the major health organizations have stepped up to raise awareness about healthy eating, losing weight, and exercise. The thing is they only focus on the food aspect though -- what to eat, what not to eat, how to eat less, etc. In turn, the obesity rate has stayed steady. But we also know that a lot of people do know what healthy eating is, so it's not a lack of education that's the problem.
Another "but" -- the eating disorder rate continues to increase (rapidly). I have not looked at the statistics regarding disordered eating, but I'm sure if the ED rate is going up, so is that rate.
What if what the diet industry -- and even our own government -- is preaching to us about healthy eating/dieting is all wrong?
For instance, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of focus is put on the foods we eat, the calories, etc. It's all about numbers and food. Eat this, don't eat this, keep this amount of fat to this number, etc. Yet I know from my research that eating, how we make food choices and eat, is an emotional investment more than an instinctual investment. This basically means we're not simply making food choices as a response to hunger cues. There are other factors involved. But our government puts little emphasis on this, and instead spends most of its money on teaching us about good foods, bad foods, etc.
Teaching us just about food would be great if we were robots, but we're not. We're humans. We have emotions, moods, and mental and physical drives that affect nearly everything we do. And that includes eating.
The other issue I have with the government is that it's so focused on good, bad, healthy, unhealthy, etc. Yet, if you've ever received treatment for an ED, you know that's not what you're taught in recovery. When you're taught to have a healthful lifestyle, the focus is not on food. This only reinforces ED behavior. And I highly believe what the diet industry/government is teaching the entire population RIGHT now may be reinforcing disordered eating behavior, and to a higher extent, something called rigid dieting. Rigid dieting is an eating style I've studied recently; there have been two studies conducted on it thus far. Both studies show rigid dieters are more prone to overeating, eating disorder symptoms, mood disturbances, anxiety, and a higher BMI.
So how do you fix this? I'm not sure, but I want to figure out a way. I want to go back to school and major in both psychology and nutrition, since both fields are highly applicable to this issue. I would like to do a lot of research about this issue before developing my official theory on the "obesity epidemic." There are a couple of holes in my theory I want to iron out first.