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Health Psychology and Activists’ Views on Obesity

Introduction

Among the latest common and serious health challenges that people face globally is obesity or overweight. It occurs not only in cities but also in rural areas, affecting people of all ages and social statuses. This is a condition that results in an accumulation of excessive or abnormal fat that impairs a person’s health. It is also measured using one’s Body Mass Index or BMI. For an adult to be classified as overweight, their BMI must be 25 and above, while to be obese, the BMI has to be more than 30 (World Health Organization [WHO], 2020).

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While many people imagine that overweight results from individual negligence, psychologists define it as an environmental and personal genes outcome in addition to social influences (Moskovich et al., 2016). This paper examines obesity from the psychological and activists’ perspectives while highlighting some of the steps to be taken in the prevention and curbing of the disease.

Obesity from the Psychological Perspective

As aforementioned above, there are various causes for obesity, according to psychologists. For instance, a case study involving a recently divorced mother has highlighted how the divorcee became overweight due to stress. Consequently, the mother finds herself alone in the house when the children go to Florida to visit their father. This makes her feel lonely, and as a result, she finds herself cooking too much food, which she shares with her dog sometimes.

Thus, she has become obese, and it is affecting her psychologically. Recently, while on the flight, the mother had to request an extra flight buckle since the available one could not fit. Nonetheless, research has shown that people gain weight, hence, develop obesity due to regular eating of too many calories, taking much energy, and leading a lonely life without exercise (McDonnell & Garbers, 2018). Besides, various factors that contribute to this condition result from individual uncontrollable influences from the surrounding. Conversely, a deeper understanding of obesity, the social and psychological factors contributing to the disease creates awareness and highlights preventive measures to be undertaken by a person to curb it.

From a psychological perspective, overweight and obesity are the two parameters that result from an individual’s background. People who are suffering from obesity are observed from their residential area and the surrounding environment (Brewis et al., 2018). Further, their cultural, societal norms, networks, social influences, physical and other physiological factors contribute to their inherent overweight conditions. Similarly, using the aforementioned biopsychological factors, one can explain the correlation between the environment and the individual and how they influence obesity (McDonnell & Garbers, 2018).

Moreover, the psychological perspective focuses on behavior determinants and other factors that consist of socio-environment, psychological, and biological components. Psychological factors include food preferences and cues, adverse mental and psychological experiences, emotional adaptations, and coping skills.

These are core personal behaviors that contribute immensely to overweight. In addition, biological factors involve stress response, coping mechanism, and appetite control by an individual. Similarly, socio-environmental factors include food availability and accessibility, the ability to walk in the neighborhood, and stigma experienced due to overweight. Therefore, the above-mentioned factors contribute immensely to an individual’s weight.

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The Activists’ Perspective on Obesity

Recent studies conducted on weight around the globe have shown that those stigmatized due to obesity suffer emotional stress, discrimination, adjustment to diet, and discipline to regular exercises. Further, it leads to more personal stress, which, in turn, results in more bodyweight (Brewis et al., 2018). On the other hand, sizeism affects women negatively and contributes to a large extent of body shaming and other forms of stigma.

Conventionally, Cooper (2016) asserts that issues on weight and obesity have been viewed from an individual perspective, focusing on self-discipline instead of looking at it from the political, social, and cultural contexts where there is prejudice. On the contrary, therapists, scholars, and activists have been on social awareness frontline, shunning prejudice and enhancing the psychological well-being of women who are stigmatized (Matacin & Simone, 2019). Coupled with that, activists have shifted the wishful thinking from weight loss and anti-fat attitude to health promotion. Similarly, social activism can be used as an avenue by clinicians in a therapeutic context as they work with obese clients encouraging them to accept their conditions.

Causes of Obesity

Recent studies have shown that obesity is on the increase throughout the world. The latest data by the World Health Organization indicates that obesity has tripled since the 1970s. In addition, in the year 2016, globally, overweight and obesity accounted for approximately 2 billion and a half a billion people, respectively (Puhl & Liu, 2015). In addition, 38 million children under 5 were obese in 2019, while 340 million adolescents and children between the ages of 5 to 19 were found to be either obese or overweight (WHO, 2020). It further adds that 39 percent of adults were overweight as compared to 13 percent who were obese in 2016.

Furthermore, there are two other major causes of obesity, which include biological and psychological factors. Biological factors or influencers are linked to the early life of an individual concerning their eating habits and physical activities. Besides, research has shown that the genes of a person contribute to obesity. Similarly, experiencing stress enhances the risk of a person gaining weight (McDonnell & Garbers, 2018). Furthermore, food preferences due to exposure to foods and easy accessibility influence a person’s tendency to eat. Moreover, physical inactivity due to solitude and the sedentary nature of one’s lifestyle increases the likelihood of becoming overweight.

How to Reduce and Curb Obesity

Obesity can be avoided or reduced by limiting the intake of sugars and fats while at the same time increasing the consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts. Further, adults should engage in regular exercises for 150 minutes per week while children are to exercise for 60 minutes weekly. In addition, society should have psycho-social support programs for those suffering from obesity (WHO, 2020). Furthermore, eating healthy food at intervals, exercising both at home and in the workplace can curb abrupt and uneven eating habits that contribute to overweight.

Conclusion

In conclusion, obesity has become a health challenge that must be tackled through combined efforts. Seemingly, being overweight has many disadvantages and can lead to diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension, gall bladder, breast and prostate cancer, and death. Therefore, there is a need to take precautions by exercising regularly, avoiding a situation that might lead to stress, eating healthy food consisting of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

Lastly, while psychologists try to explain the behavior of overweight people, social activists create awareness against stigma among them; thus, both groups play an important role in curbing obesity. The WHO’s programs address the social and political structures that promote stigma, hence, creating awareness among people.

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References

Brewis, A., SturtzSreetharan, C., & Wutich, A. (2018). Obesity stigma as a globalizing health challenge. Globalization and Health, 14, 20. Web.

Cooper, C. (2016). Fat activism: A radical social movement. Hammer on Press.

Matacin, M. L., & Simone, M. (2019). Advocating for fat activism in a therapeutic context. Women & Therapy, 42(1−2), 200−215. Web.

McDonnell, C. J., & Garbers, S. V. (2018). Adverse childhood experiences and obesity: Systematic review of behavioral interventions for women. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 10(4), 387–395. Web.

Moskovich, A., Hunger, J. M., & Mann, T. (2016). The psychology of obesity. In the Oxford handbook of the social science of obesity (pp. 87−104). Oxford University Press.

Puhl, R. M., & Liu, S. (2015). A national survey of public views about the classification of obesity as a disease. Obesity, 23(6), 1288−1295. Web.

World Health Organization. (2020). Obesity and overweight. Web.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Health Psychology and Activists’ Views on Obesity." June 8, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/health-psychology-and-activists-views-on-obesity/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Health Psychology and Activists’ Views on Obesity'. 8 June.

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