More than 70% of adults in the United States are overweight (with a Body Mass Index of greater than 25), and more than half of these are considered obese (with a BMI of greater than 30). Among children, the prevalence of obesity is about half of that of adults, which is a serious problem. Obese children tend to become obese adults.
Obesity has been increasing dramatically over the past few decades, as calorie-rich food has become more accessible (think “Would you like to supersize that?”), and people have become less physically active. For example, since electronics became prevalent in the 2000’s children are much more likely to be glued to their videogames than to participate in sports.
Obesity usually leads to the development of heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancer, diabetes, depression, sleep problems, and a shorter life. How often have you seen an overweight 80-year-old? During COVID the majority of people who were hospitalized suffered from obesity and its related complications. Obesity accounts for more than a third of the cost of healthcare in this country!
The good news about obesity is that it can be controlled by each affected individual. Unless a patient has a metabolic problem (which is rare), obesity can be resolved by eating less and exercising more. Emphasis needs to be put on controlling the diet because it’s so easy to overeat.
For example, in order to gain an extra 50 pounds in 5 years, all that is required is to eat 100 calories a day more than you need. One slice or cheese or one slice of bread contains 100 calories. This is why it’s so easy to gain weight. A large chocolate chip cookie might have 250 calories. A large muffin might have 500 calories. In contrast, moderate exercise for an hour uses up only 300 calories.
People overeat for many reasons including that the food helps them feel better, eating is a social activity, and when they are not paying attention to what they are eating. Stress often leads to overeating because it causes hormonal changes that lead to increased hunger.
There are many ways to control overeating behavior. These include planning what you are going to eat before you start a meal, taking small portion sizes, eating on smaller plates, eating mindfully while paying attention to your food and chewing slowly, avoiding tempting foods, eating foods with high fiber (oats, grains, vegetables) or protein (nuts, milk products) content, and drinking lots of water.
Since stress leads to overeating, hypnotic stress reduction techniques can be very helpful, as described in my previous blogs, including on February 26, 2021.
Hypnotic suggestions can be made that the patients can become healthier and feeling better about themselves by right-sizing. Patients can imagine a future in which they are healthier and how good they will feel about themselves in the future.
If a patient is stressed because of poor self-esteem use of hypnosis can help by boosting their self-confidence as patients learn that they can regulate their emotions and behaviors better than they had believed possible.
Even positive self-talk can help, such as when patients experience hunger while reducing their weight. I tell patients that when they feel hungry this means their bodies are using up some of their fat and thus, they can associate this feeling with a couple of other “h” words: “happy” and “healthy.”
Control of obesity is in the hands of most patients. Hypnosis can be used to improve weight through use of stress reduction techniques and self-suggestions that promote healthy eating.
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