Today’s post is to announce the arrival of my daughter Linnie von Sky’s second children’s book, “Pom Pom A Flightless Bully Tale“, that hundreds of you helped fund by pre-ordering your copy(ies) about 12 months ago – your books are in the mail and should be there in time for the Holidays (a big THANK YOU from me for your support!). To those of you, who are new to these pages, Pom Pom is the story of the slightly rotund little penguin Pomeroy Paulus Jr III., who simply hates it when people call him “Pom Pom”. Like any boy his age he’s busy trying to impress ‘the birds’, particularly one bird: Pia. Pomeroy dreams of a pair of orange swim trunks; the ones that Pete, Pucker and Piper own. The same ones Pia said she loved. There’s just one little hiccup. The antAmart doesn’t carry them in his size. The story tells of how mom helps Pomeroy get his own pair of orange swim trunks and how Pia saves the day when she steps up and puts bullies in their place. Here is what Linnie had to say about the reason for writing this book in an interview with Lindsay william-Ross for VancityBuzz: “When you talk about bullying you have to talk about how much it hurts. Kids understand that,” says von Sky, who hopes her stories ignite conversations. Of “Pom Pom,” von Sky remarks: “I think it’s an encouragement to talk about emotions. What triggers certain actions, what makes somebody want to hurt someone else. Are they hurting?” For von Sky, whose protagonist in “Pom Pom” is picked on because of his size, the pain of bullying in the story echoes the passion she first tapped into working with the Canadian Obesity Network. “Weight bullying happens to be the one thing I’m extremely allergic to,” affirms von Sky. For any of you who would like to order your own copy of this delightful little children’s book about bullying, friendship, respect, sadness, empathy, standing up for friends, antarctica, penguins & above all, love (for ages 3 and up) – click here. @DrSharma Edmonton, AB
Today’s guest post comes from Erik Hemmingsson, PhD, a Group Leader at the Obesity Center, Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. His group studies the role of psychological and emotional distress in weight gain and obesity by mapping life events that influence stress, metabolism and body weight. Erik has a PhD in Exercise and Health Sciences from the University of Bristol (2004) and a PhD in Medicine from Karolinska Institutet. I work as a researcher in a specialized obesity treatment center at a university hospital in Sweden. My job is to develop new and more effective treatment and prevention methods so that we can hopefully confine obesity to the history books some day. For many years I mostly did studies on behaviour therapy combined with low energy diets. Since this did not result in any major breakthroughs, I decided to try something a little different. I had been aware of that many of our patients had experienced difficult childhoods. There were so many sad stories, but I didn’t fancy doing any research on the topic, it was too painful. But then my attitude gradually started to change about a year ago. It was clear that our current treatment methods were woefully ineffective, but I also became more receptive to all those troublesome stories from the patients. Enough was enough, it was time act. So, like Neo in the Matrix movies, I decided to take the red pill, and delve deeper into the very uncomfortable subject of childhood abuse and adult obesity. I searched the literature and quickly saw that there were more than enough studies for a systematic review and meta-analysis. I enlisted the help of Dr Kari Johansson and Dr Signy Reynisdottir, and got to work. What we found very much confirmed all those clinical observations, i.e. there was a very robust association between childhood abuse and adult obesity. The association was also very consistent across difference types of abuse, with an increased risk of about 30-40%. There was also a dose-response association, i.e. the more abuse, the greater the risk of obesity. While this study confirmed something very important, it was also clear that not everyone who suffers childhood abuse develops obesity, or that all obese individuals have suffered childhood abuse, or the effects would have been even more pronounced. But for me, the study proved that stressful childhood experiences can easily manifest as obesity many years… Read More »
Social media are not just a means of sharing your life with the world – they also open your life to praise (likes and positive comments) or criticism. Thus, it is easy to see how avid use of such platforms (especially those with ample picture posts) can potentially promote body image and weight obsessions in those who may not be quite confident and happy about their appearance. That this may not just be an interesting theory is suggested by two studies by Annalise Mabe and colleagues from Florida State University, published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. In the first study 960 female college students completed an Eating Attitudes Test that included Dieting and Bulimia/Food Preoccupation subscales with items such as “I eat diet foods” and “I give too much time and thought to food.” Duration of Facebook use was assessed with the question “How much time do you spend on Facebook per week?” with options ranging from 0 to >7 hours (average used tended to be just over 2 hours per week). This study found a small but statistically significant positive relationship between the duration of Facebook use and disordered eating. In the second study, 84 women, who had participated in the first study and endorsed Facebook use on a weekly basis were randomization to either spending 20 mins on their facebook account or finding information about the ocelot on Wikipedia and YouTube. Participants with greater disordered eating scores endorsed greater importance of receiving comments on their status, and greater importance of receiving “likes” on their status. Those with greater eating pathology reported untagging photos of themselves more often and endorsed comparing their photos to their female friends’ photos more often. Participants in the control group demonstrated a greater decline in weight/shape preoccupation than did participants who spent 20 min on Facebook. Furthermore post hoc comparisons supported a significant decrease in weight/shape preoccupation in controls. Facebook use resulted in a preoccupation with weight and shape compared to an internet control condition despite several multivariate adjustments. As the authors discuss, their finding, “indicates that typical Facebook use may contribute to maintenance of weight/shape concerns and state anxiety, both of which are established eating disorder risk factors.” In terms of practical implications of these findings, the authors suggest that, “Facebook could be targeted as a maintenance factor in prevention programs. For example, interventions could address the implications of appearance-focused comments such… Read More »
There is ample evidence for improvements in mood and other aspects of mental health with weight loss in people with excess weight, who have these problems to begin with. But whether or not weight loss in otherwise healthy people living with obesity is associated with any such benefits remains unknown. This question in now addressed by Sarah Jackson and colleagues from the UK in a paper published in PLOS | ONE. The researchers examine data from 1,979 overweight and obese adults, free of long-standing illness or clinical depression at baseline, from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Participants were grouped according to four-year weight change into those losing ≥5% weight, those gaining ≥5%, and those whose weight was stable within 5%. The proportion of participants with depressed mood increased by almost 300% in the group that lost weight (about 15% of participants) compared to a rather modest 85% and 62% increase in mood problems in the than weight stable or weight gain groups, respectively. Compared to the weight stable group, the weight loss group was almost 2 times as likely to report mood problems. Similarly, individuals in the weight loss group were also more likely to report lower wellbeing. All effects persisted in analyses controlling for demographic variables, weight loss intention, and baseline characteristics and despite adjusting for illness and life stress during the weight loss period. Given the longitudinal nature of this study, it is impossible to determine causal relationships in these observations but the findings do suggest that the issue of psychological harm in otherwise healthy individuals undergoing weight loss may warrant closer study. For the event that there is indeed a causal relationship between weight loss and adverse pychological outcomes, the authors have the following explanation to offer: “The poor long-term maintenance of weight loss is notorious, and in itself could be interpreted as demonstrating that the personal costs of losing weight exceed the benefits. Resisting food in environments that offer abundant eating opportunities requires sustained self-control, and given that self-control appears to be a limited resource, other areas of life may suffer as a consequence. Loss of fat stores may also initiate signals for replenishment of adipocytes, thereby stimulating hunger and appetite and making weight control progressively more difficult. These observations suggest that weight loss is a significant psychobiological challenge, and as such, could affect psychological wellbeing.” On the other hand, weight loss could also result… Read More »
Social anxiety, defined as persistent fears of one or more social situations in which the person is exposed to others and expects to be scrutinized, has been reported in as many as one in ten individuals with overweight or obesity. Now, a paper by Abbas Abdollahi and Mansor Abu Talib, published in Psychology, Health and Medicine, examines the relationship between social anxiety and sedentary behaviour in this population. The researchers surveyed 207 overweight and obese students (measured heights and weights) using a number of validated instruments to assess social anxiety, sedentariness and body esteem. As one might expect, social anxiety was associated with lower body esteem and higher sedentary behaviour. The key mediator in this relationship was body dissatisfaction and poor body esteem. Thus, “…obese individuals with poor body esteem are more likely to report social anxiety, because they are concerned about negative evaluation by others; therefore, obese individuals indicate avoidance behaviour, which, ultimately, leads to social anxiety.” The implications of these findings are obvious, “First, when assessing the social anxiety in individuals, it is important to account for the presence of sedentary behaviour in addition to other psychological risk factors. Second, reducing sedentary behaviour can alter the effect of social anxiety factors; this may be a significant factor to incorporate into social anxiety treatment programmes. Reducing social anxiety in individuals is a main part of any clinical intervention. Third, the findings of the current study suggest that health professionals should encourage obese individuals with social anxiety to reassure their value and abilities regardless of their weight or body shape, and assist them to recognize that everybody is unique and that differences between individuals are valuable.” This will take more than simply telling people with overweight to be more active. It will certainly require targeted and professional help to overcome body dissatisfaction and low self esteem. Or, even better, we need to do all we can to help people gain more confidence and be accepting about their own bodies in the first place. @DrSharma Vancouver, BC Abdollahi A, & Talib MA (2014). Sedentary behaviour and social anxiety in obese individuals: the mediating role of body esteem. Psychology, health & medicine, 1-5 PMID: 24922119 .