Are We Digging Our Graves with a Spoon in America? A Psychiatrist Weighs In.

The etiology of obesity, in my opinion, has several distinct ones. Each has its own specific phenomenology which may require more in-depth blog-posts in the future. However, in this particular post, I want to provide you with an overview of some of my thoughts.

My opening comment is that I would like to suggest four (4) clinical etiologies as a frame of reference for my discussion. My hypothesis is basically birthed out of my experience as a physician in America.  Michelle Obama, among others, are now speaking out on this public health tragedy. America is digging its grave with a spoon. All hands need to be on deck and we can no longer afford to sit in oblivion and not start with the discussions to address this public health problem. Here are my thoughts for your consideration:

Possible Etiologies for Obesity in America:

1. Genetics

  • This is an area that has to be looked at very closely.  As with depression, obesity certainly runs in families. Although we have not isolated any particular gene for this disorder, any genogram will certainly offer you data that suggests the genetic relation to this disorder.  Most of us have probably observed this phenomena in our communities as well. It is also a known fact that most children develop many of their eating behaviors from their parents.

2. The Poverty-Derived “Clean Your Plate” Syndrome

  • Many adults who grew up in impoverished settings have always heard the very familiar saying of “clean your plate.” Many were also taught not to throw away food because someone in the home had worked very hard to pay for it. As a result, in our later years, we now gorge ourselves, even when full. This certainly leads to increased caloric intake and can lead to obesity and its sequela. Have you ever over-eaten and really couldn’t understand why?

3.  Emotional Eating (Depression)

  • I see numerous small and obese persons yearly who have this problem. People in America use food for comfort; when many people become anxious at work or home, they immediately run to get a highly glycemic snack, such as cookies, cakes, or potato chips. Pretty soon, this becomes a conditioned response: stress = food. This is a bad mix, and I encourage persons who experience bad relationships, stressful jobs, and tragic loss to seek out the proper mental health treatment. The old saying that one thing leads to another will certainly be the case if emotional eating is not dealt with at the onset.

4. Economics

  • This is a very important multi-factorial consideration for obesity.
  • Many people just can’t afford to buy healthy foods.
  • Many people will purchase pork and non-lean meats because they are cheaper.
  • Sometimes in impoverished communities, “Top Grade” products are not available for purchase.
  • Sometimes, because of budgets, people have to purchase cheaper meats, canned vegetables and day-old breads to make it through the month.
  • Unemployment is at an all-time high.
  • Jobs are not paying as much, so budgets have to be strategic in purchases.

This is just the beginning of my discussion. Do you see “obesity’ as a problem in your family, church or community? What do you think some of the etiologies are in your surroundings? Please share your comments on the blog…

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