How can you improve your health and ultimately, your life?

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Answered by: Rado Shane, An Expert in the Healthy Living 101 Category
Obesity and Stress: The Perfect Storm

Dr. R. Shane Harrington

In today’s world, obesity and stress are proving to be a deadly combination. A study conducted in 2007 by the American Psychological Association (APA) revealed that one-third of adults living in the US regularly experience extreme stress and nearly half believed that their stress had actually increased over the previous five years2.

The impacts of stress are phenomenal and the results of the APA study revealed that 77% experienced physical and 73% psychological stress-related symptoms with 43% of participants stating that they eat unhealthily or overeat to manage stress, while 36% even skipped a meal2. Although Americans appeared to recognize the negative impact of stress, only 35% said that they would change their behavior in the presence of a chronic disease2.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2009, there were 133 million people living in the United States with one or more chronic disease3. Their treatment accounted for 75% of the $2.5 trillion spent on healthcare that year alone and resulted in seven of every 10 deaths3. Study results have revealed that stress is directly related to illness5 and the inherent challenges associated with the development of a chronic disease can be devastating both to the individual sufferer and their families, along with the healthcare system that is treating them.

While an individual’s quality of life decreases, stress-levels increase. Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and despair increase, compounding the problem and perpetuating the chronic illness. While prevention is paramount, the obesity epidemic is perhaps the greatest contributory factor in this phenomenon7, 9. In fact, recent study data has revealed that obesity is one of the most influential causes of premature morbidity and mortality6, 8.

In fact, obesity has actually become the second leading cause of preventable death, right after smoking12. While many studies have confirmed that smoking is a direct contributor to the development of countless diseases, including cancer, millions of people around the world still adopt this habit each day4, 10. Poor dietary choices and overeating are just as addictive, and problematic.

The difficulty with this is that although many overweight and obese individuals have attempted to reduce their weight, only a small number were able to successfully adhere to recommended dietary guidelines and physical activity goals8. A cross-sectional study found that among female participants recruited through a primary care clinic for a weight loss trial, nearly 80% had multiple lifestyle risk behaviors that contributed to their health predicament and 90% of the participants had two or more of the obesity-related risk factors8.

This reflected the overwhelming evidence that confirms obesity is not simply a problem of self-control and/or the will power to change, but a very complex disorder that involves appetite regulation and energy metabolism6. It has also been suggested that obesity is a multisystem condition related to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, dyslipidemia, coronary heart disease, sleep apnea, gallstones, certain cancers, osteoarthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease12.

Now considered a public health pandemic, the prevalence of obesity is systematically shortening life-spans, while increasing the lifetime burden of developing weight-induced chronic disease12. One of the most alarming facts is that the highest incidences of obesity are now being reported among 18-29 year olds1. This is the first generation in over 200 years that is not projected to outlive their parents, in spite of advances in healthcare technology and reduced smoking rate12.

Many of the challenges faced by overweight or obese individuals can be attributed to a potential addiction to unhealthy lifestyle patterns, which have created the forum for self-destructive and self-sabotaging behaviors to abound11. This phenomenon has proven to be especially prevalent among populations dealing with food insecurity issues, stemming from the challenges surrounding lower-socioeconomic status12. Ultimately, if these behaviors are not addressed, scientific evidence has clearly demonstrated that premature death will ensue6.

For this reason, it is essential that Americans and people around the world become more health conscious. That they take control of their health and ultimately, their lives by focusing on developing a consistent, well balanced lifestyle. A lifestyle that consists of making healthier, more informed choices that provide sustainable value over the long term. Today, too many people are chasing the unverifiable results of fad diets that simply do not work for everyone, or in some cases, anyone…

Finding a good health psychologist is one of the most beneficial ways to aide in bringing all elements of the healthcare continuum together, developing a health improvement plan designed to improve your health and ultimately, your life. This is exactly what Dr. R. Shane Harrington can do for you. So, what are you waiting for? Contact us today and together, we can begin the journey that will actually produce the type of change you can believe in by taking the steps to improve your health.


1. Adderley-Kelly, B. (2007). The prevalence of overweight and obesity among undergraduate health sciences students. ABNF Journal, 18(2), 46-50.

2. American Psychological Association (2009). Stress survey: Stress a major health problem in the U.S. 1-3.

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion [NCCDPHP] (2009). Chronic diseases—at a glance 2009. Retrieved on August 30, 2010 from

4. Deepika, L. K., & Egede, L. E. (2007). Association Between Length of Residence and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors Among an Ethnicity Diverse Group of United States immigrants. Society of General Internal Medicine, 22, 841-846.

5. Evers, K. E., Prochaska, J. O., Johnson, J. L., Mauriello, L. M., Padula, J. A., & Prochaska, J. M. (2006). A randomized clinical trial of a population- and transtheoretical model-based stress-management intervention. Health Psychology, 25(4), 521-529.

6. Lang, A., & Froelicher, E. S. (2006). Management of overweight and obesity in adults: Behavioral intervention for long-term weight loss and maintenance. [doi: DOI: 10.1016/j.ejcnurse.2005.11.002]. European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 5(2), 102-114.

7. Racette, S. B., Deusinger, S. S., & Deusinger, R. H. (2003). Obesity: Overview of prevalence, etiology, and treatment. Physical Therapy, 83(3), 276-288.

8. Sanchez, A., Norman, G. J., Sallis, J. F., Calfas, K. J., Rock, C., & Patrick, K. (2008). Patterns and correlates of multiple risk behaviors in overweight women. [doi: DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2007.10.005]. Preventive Medicine, 46(3), 196-202.

9. Strychar, I. (2006). Diet in the management of weight loss. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 174, 56-63.

10. van den Putte, B., Yzer, M., Willemsen, M. C., & de Bruijn, G.-J. (2009). The effects of smoking self-identity and quitting self-identity on attempts to quit smoking. Health Psychology, 28(5), 535-544.

11. Velasquez, M. M., von Sternberg, K., Dodrill, C. L., Kan, L. Y., & Parsons, J. T. (2005). The transtheoretical model as a framework for developing substance abuse interventions. Journal of Addictions Nursing, 16(1-2), 31-40, 33p.

12. Yaskin, J., Toner, R. W., & Goldfarb, N. (2009). Obesity management interventions: A review of the evidence. Population Health Management, 12(6), 305-316.

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