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Health PSYCHOLOGY. E ating, N utrition, W eight management, and O besity. “[People] dig their graves with their own teeth and die more by those fatal instruments than the weapons of their enemies.” -- Thomas Moffett, 1600. Food and Wellness (Psychological and Physical) .

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health psychology

Eating, Nutrition, Weight management, and Obesity


“[People] dig their graves with their own teeth and die more by those fatal instruments than the weapons of their enemies.”

-- Thomas Moffett, 1600

food and wellness psychological and physical
Food and Wellness (Psychological and Physical)
  • “What to eat” (M. Nestle)
  • “Positive eating”
  • “In defense of food” (M. Pollan)
  • USDA’s MY Pyramid vs. Healthy Eating Pyramid (Harvard)
  • Slow food, fast food, no food, ???


food and wellness psychological and physical1
Food and Wellness (Psychological and Physical)
  • Nutrition and Wellness
    • Eating to feel well (as opposed to simply getting calories) -- mens sana in corpore sano
      • Eating for psychological and physiological wellness
      • Eating for disease prevention
      • Eating for _________________ (lots of reasons)
what we eat
What we eat
  • Macronutrients
    • Carbohydrates
    • Fats
    • Proteins
  • Micronutrients
    • Vitamins
    • Minerals
    • Phytochemicals
what we eat1
What we eat
  • Vitamins
    • 13 known vitamins, classified as either fat-soluble (A, D, E, K) or water-soluble (B and C)
    • C & E are antioxidants
  • Minerals
    • Inorganic elements (e.g., calcium -- for muscle contractions, nerve transmission)
  • Phytochemicals
    • Bioactive chemicals found in plants (e.g., sterols, flavonoids, beta-carotene) with potential health-promoting qualities (e.g., anti-oxidant activity)
how we eat
How we eat

Michael Pollan NYTimes article(quiz)

  • Eat food
  • Mostly plants
  • Not too much
weight management
Weight Management
  • Caloric needs
    • Vary by age, sex, height, weight, activity level, & basal metabolic rate (BMR)
    • Rough guideline (men = 2500 kcal, women = 2000 kcal)
  • Regular physical activity





assessing body composition
Assessing body composition
  • Bioelectrical impedance — determining body fat percentage by analyzing electrical resistance (fat is a poor conductor)
  • Hydrostatic weighing — comparing underwater weight with dry weight
  • Body mass index (BMI) – calculating a ratio of height to weight
calculating bmi
Calculating BMI

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
When we eat too much…or move too little
  • 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
hypothalamus and eating
Hypothalamus and eating
  • Lateral Hypothalamus (LH)
    • Stimulation leads to hunger
    • Lesioning leads to self-starvation
  • Ventromedial Hypothalamus (VMH)
    • VMH lesioning leads to hunger
    • VMH stimulation causes an animal to stop eating
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 (“One hypothesis is that maternal obesity before and during pregnancy affects the establishment of body weight regulatory mechanisms in her baby. Maternal obesity could promote obesity in the next generation." (Waterland, 2008)
obesity trends
Obesity Trends
  • Go to other PP slide show
  • Will the trend continue?

“Most adults in the U.S. will be overweight or obese by 2030, with related health care spending projected to be as much as $956.9 billion, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins (July 2008, online issue of Obesity).

factors that contribute to obesity1
Factors That Contribute to Obesity
  • Heredity / biological factors
  • Cultural factors
  • Emotional / behavioral factors

10,000 years ago –

who survived during a famine?




Increase in

availability of

high density foods

(sugar/fat are cheap)

Increase in size

Decrease in cost

Decrease in work-

related activities

Decrease in activity

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 obesity1
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 contribution (ABC News video): dependence on Zea Mays (a giant tropical grass)
    • We are simply eating more! (next slide)

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 obesity2
Social/Cultural Factors in Obesity
  • Pounds consumed per person
    • 1970 – 1,497 lbs.
    • 2000 – 1,775 lbs.
  • 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 obesity3
Social/Cultural Factors in Obesity
  • Cultural variation in ideal body image (overemphasis on thinness  yo-yo dieting and eventual weight gain)
  • Japanese-American men are 3 times as likely to be obese as men living in Japan
  • Pima Indians (next slide)
social cultural factors in obesity4
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
    • Sensitivity to cues
    • Overweight people often more sensitive to external:
      • 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
    • Trend is improving, with fewer people on “diets” these days
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