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Health PSYCHOLOGY. W eight management and O besity. Weight Management -- Overview. Physical activity (what does “Obesity” article say?) Dietary choices (what does “Obesity” article say?) Caloric needs Vary by age, sex, height, weight, activity level, & basal metabolic rate (BMR)

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health psychology

Weight management and Obesity

weight management overview
Weight Management -- Overview
  • Physical activity (what does “Obesity” article say?)
  • Dietary choices (what does “Obesity” article say?)
  • Caloric needs
    • Vary by age, sex, height, weight, activity level, & basal metabolic rate (BMR)
    • Rough guideline (men = 2500 kcal, women = 2000 kcal)
  • Mood regulation
  • Cultural factors






assessing body composition
Assessing body composition

Estimating percentages of fat, muscle, bone

Is there an “ideal” body comp?

  • Bioelectrical impedance — determining body fat percentage by analyzing electrical resistance (fat is a poor conductor)
  • Skin calipers — thickness of subcutaneous fat in multiple places on the body
  • Body mass index (BMI) – used to estimate a healthy body weight based on a person's height, assuming an average body composition.
body mass index bmi kg m 2
Body Mass Index (BMI = kg/m2)

BMI Categories:

  • Underweight = <18.5
  • Normal weight = 18.5-24.9
  • Overweight = 25-29.9
  • Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater
when we eat too much or move too little or both
When we eat too much…or move too little (or both)
  • Obesity (particularly “apple-pattern”) linked to atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes
  • Increased risk of several cancers, sleep disturbances, degenerative joint disease
  • Impact on psychological well-being
  • Increased mortality rates (next slide)
factors that contribute to obesity
Factors That Contribute to Obesity
  • Heredity / biological factors
  • Cultural factors
  • Emotional / behavioral factors
basic physiological cues
Basic physiological cues
  • Body needs energy = sends orexigenic signal (tells brain to switch hunger on)
    • Ghrelin (hormone)
  • Body has sufficient energy = sends anorexigenic signal (tells brain to switch hunger off)
    • Leptin (hormone)

Only sense directly connected to forebrain

Olfactory receptor neurons (350 ORNs)

Strong cue for eating, emotion, and memory



Taste buds (5 different types)

Salt, sour, bitter, sweet, umami (savory)

each contains several types of taste receptors (microvilli) that react with tastant molecules in food

Taste is influenced by many factors


metabolism and weight
Metabolism and weight
  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
    • base rate of energy expenditure
    • influenced by heredity, age, activity level, and body composition (fat tissue has a lower metabolic rate)
  • Set Point
    • the point at which an individual’s “weight thermostat” is supposedly set
    • when the body falls below this weight, an increase in hunger and a lowered metabolic rate may act to restore the lost weight
is it genetic
“Is it genetic?”
  • ob gene
    • Regulates production of leptin
    • Leptin is secreted by fat cells and has dual activity of decreasing food intake and increasing metabolic rate
    • Mice born without the ability to make leptin (ob/ob mice) eat without restraint

ob/ob mouse

normal mice


ob/ob mouse

ob/ob mouse

injected with


so just give obese humans leptin
So, just give obese humans leptin!!!
  • In fact, this works in leptin-deficient humans, but…
  • 99.99% of obese humans have HIGH levels of leptin, but have become insensitive to it.
hereditary factors
Hereditary factors
  • The genetic contribution to body weight is estimated to be between 40 and 70 percent (with some rare cases of severe obesity linked to specific gene errors)
  • Body weights of adopted children correlate more strongly with weights of biological parents
  • The epigenetics of increasing weight through the generations -- Maternal obesity could promote obesity in the next generation. (Waterland, 2008)
obesity trends
Obesity Trends
  • Will the trend continue?
factors that contribute to obesity20
Factors That Contribute to Obesity
  • Heredity / biological factors
  • Cultural factors
  • Emotional / behavioral factors

10,000 years ago –

who survived during a famine?





Most are not in a

famine anymore…


availability of

high density foods

(sugar/fat are cheap)

Increase in size

Decrease in cost

Decrease in work-

related activities

Decrease in activities

of daily living


Genetic predisposition to store fat


Just as

our jeans no longer fit our waist,

our genes no longer fit our environment

social cultural factors in obesity
Social/Cultural Factors in Obesity

We live in a toxic environment. It’s like trying to treat an alcoholic in a town where there’s a bar every ten feet. Bad food is cheap, heavily promoted, and engineered to taste good. Healthy food is hard to get, not promoted, and expensive.

If you came down from Mars and saw all this, what else would you predict except an obesity epidemic?

Kelly Brownell, Yale, 2004 (Nat’l Geo. Article: The heavy cost of fat)

social cultural factors in obesity25
Social/Cultural Factors in Obesity
  • Food-toxic environment (cheap, hi-cal, lo-quality food available)
    • Absence of supermarkets in lo-income neighborhoods
    • Way too many of our calories are coming from junk food (and in the car). (Sugar: 172 lbs/pp per year)
    • Governmental subsidies (e.g., Zea Mays, a giant tropical grass)
    • We are simply eating more! (next slides)

Humongasize it!!

Past Today

French Fries 2.4 oz 7 oz

210 kcal 610 kcal

Soda 6.5 oz 20.0 oz

79 kcal 250 kcal

Hershey’s Bar 2 oz 7 oz

300 kcal 1000 kcal


20 Years Ago


270 calories

5 cups

1700 calories21 cups buttered

social cultural factors in obesity28
Social/Cultural Factors in Obesity
  • 2004: The "Monster Thickburger" — two 1/3-pound slabs of Angus beef, four strips of bacon, three slices of cheese and mayonnaise on a buttered sesame seed bun
  • 1420 calories!
social cultural factors in obesity29
Social/Cultural Factors in Obesity
  • Cultural variation in ideal body image (overemphasis on thinness  yo-yo dieting and eventual weight gain)
  • Studies on immigrants: e.g., Japanese-American men are 3 times as likely to be obese as men living in Japan
  • Pima Indians (next slide)
social cultural factors in obesity30
Social/Cultural Factors in Obesity

Pima Indians (in Mexico vs. in U.S.)

emotional behavioral factors
Emotional / behavioral factors
  • Disinhibition— overeating triggered by an event, emotion, or behavior
  • Eating used as coping
  • Internality / Externality hypothesis
    • People are sensitive to external cues, perhaps more so in overweight individuals:
      • Time of day
      • Commercials
      • “Golden arches”
dieting concerns
Dieting concerns
  • Dieting
    • In U.S., 72% of women and 44% of men have dieted at some point in their adult lives
    • Yo-yo dieting associated with progressive wt gain
    • Chronic dieting influence BMR negatively
    • Fad diets and health problems
eat an apple doctor s orders
Eat an Apple (Doctor’s Orders)
  • Doctors at three health centers in Massachusetts have begun advising patients to eat “prescription produce” from local farmers’ markets, in an effort to fight obesity in children of low-income families. Now they will give coupons amounting to $1 a day for each member of a patient’s family to promote healthy meals.

NYTimes Aug 13, 2010

cultural interventions
Cultural interventions
  • Farm to table to school movement
  • Etc.
healthy weight loss
Healthy Weight Loss
  • Cognitive-behavioral program
    • Goal-setting, monitoring, social support
    • L.E.A.N.
      • Lifestyle changes (stimulus control, self-monitoring, speed, etc.)
      • Exercise
      • Attitude
      • Nutrition