Stress and Obesity

This topic is complex, important and requires much discussion. This will be the first of several installments on the topic. This material is in part excerpted from an article I wrote several years ago for Well Being Journal on the subject of Morgan Spurlock’s movie Super Size Me.

A Precursor to Obesity

A groundbreaking study, reported in 2003 by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, found that between 1977 and 1996, portion sizes for key food groups grew markedly in the United States. This was not only found at fast food restaurants but also in homes and at conventional restaurants. In particular, portion sizes for salty and sugary foods, essentially “comfort foods”, experienced the most dramatic portion size increases. For example, the USDA’s recommended serving size for a cookie is half and ounce, while the average cook sold in restaurants was found to be 700% larger.

The by-products of our affluent American society, envied by many around the world, have a definite dark side – our obesity rates for starters. In a culture here more is better and disposable income is abundant, when it comes to eating we have developed a “more food, more conveniently and more often” attitude.

Certainly, no one forces us to eat more than our body needs, so what is driving this “hunger” for more? Over the last two decades, almost proportionally to the dramatic increase in food consumption and chronic disease diagnoses, the amount of stress in our society and on each of us individually has increased significantly. Stress the term medical researcher Hans Selye, MD, PhD, gave to the experience our bodies go through when we have to adjust or adapt to various changes in our environment, either externally or internally.

While many of us limit our thinking about stress to emotional states, many other factors can exert an equally detrimental effect on our bodies. When we do not get enough sleep or rest, work or exercise too much, neglect our nutritional needs, have an infection, have allergies, injuries or trauma, undergo dental or surgical procedures, have emotional upsets or deal with any aspect of reproductive function, our bodies must chemically and neurologically adapt in order to survive. Part of this adaption process relies heavily on the nutrition that is available for the kidney’s adrenal glands to produce adaptive hormones. It is often this aspect of stress that can lead to overeating, and what’s more, over eating the types of foods that cause unhealthy weight gain.

How it Works – the next installment.

With all good wishes,
© By NIWH 2010 all rights reserved