Monday, April 29, 2013

The physical effects of obesity on happiness

Did you ever hear  “eat all the food on your plate-somewhere in the world  children are starving”?  A  grave concern  for far too long was that there was not enough food in the world and children were starving. We still have countries where there is not enough food and they do need help—but malnutrition rates are falling.

Sadly obesity rates are rising. Our world is getting “too wide”  Obesity is now a global epidemic the World Health Organization reports that over 1.5 billion adults are overweight and 550 million are obese.

Too many of us are eating more and moving less.

Infertility, memory loss, cognitive dysfunction-Alzheimers, blood sugar imbalance,  heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer, chronic pain and lack of energy are some of the many conditions now recognized as the physical  effects of obesity. Did you know that   being overweight has an actual physical effect on our happiness. People who become obese and stay that way have a 55% chance of becoming depressed. People who are depressed have 58% chance of becoming obese.

It’s a sad cycle of becoming rounder… the worse one feels- the worse they eat. How easy is it to feel happy when we don’t feel good? How easy is it to make healthy food choices when you actually feel bad?

Our brains are smart! Our brains are designed to help us feel good with something called the “reward center” located in the back of our brain. This reward center  sends out signals which tell us whether we are feeling good or bad. What we eat, what we feel, the activities we do, how we sleep, where we live, what we think-- ALL OF THIS triggers a response in our  brain to create sensations of feeling good, bad or neutral. If the sensations make us feel good our reward center signals pleasure and sharpens our attention so that what makes us feel good becomes a learned habit.  We want to repeat it again and again to keep enjoying what is bringing us pleasure.

The reward center works both ways ….when we have a bad experience- the same process occurs only different chemicals trigger  responses of  anger, fear, anxiety, depression and negativity-- teaching us that we may not want to repeat the activity that makes us feel bad.

It is easy to understand that eating something delicious will make us feel good even if it is only temporary. But too many of us are eating too much and  much of what we eat is making us feel bad.
There are many ways to stimulate our reward centers and increase our pleasure so we don’t have to use food as our primary reward. Surprisingly the following steps  enhance well being and with a little practice they can become positive habits that help us feel happier:

*being kind
*performing an act of giving
*listening to relaxing music
*exercising in a manner that you enjoy
*breathing deeply
*sleeping longer
*speaking words of gratitude and appreciation
*being in nature
*having a pet

If you are overweight nutritional coaching or instruction in what foods can help you feel better and make weight loss successful can be quite valuable. Remember it can take some time for a weight loss program to be successful.  In the meantime think about making these steps permanent habits to enhance your well being and increase your happiness so that you feel better and enjoy life more.

You may also enjoy reading Beating Obesity, Three Essential Ingredients for Joy

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