Overeating is a Symptom

Last week, I blogged about the results of a study showing an association between vital exhaustion and weight gain.

This blog posting prompted Sharon Kirkey (award-winning health journalist and diligent reader of my blog) to explore this issue further by actually talking to the researchers themselves. Her article appeared yesterday via the Canwest News Service and contains far more details than I bothered to report in my blog.

For e.g. Sharon lists the actual questions Bryant and colleagues used to explore the presence of vital exhaustion. I found them most interesting so I list them below:

– Do you often feel tired?

– Do you wake up repeatedly during the night?

– Do you have the feeling that you have not been accomplishing much lately?

– Do you believe that you have come to a ‘dead end’?

– Do you lately feel more listless than before?

– Do little things irritate you more than they used to?

– Does it take more time to grasp a difficult problem than it did a year ago?

– Do you have increasing difficulty in concentrating on a single subject for long?

While to me none of these questions seem particularly specific and are likely to get a “yes” response from a lot of people (hey, even I have to say “yes” to some), I guess when you have to say “yes” to most or all of them, you are probably not hopping around like the Energizer Bunny or scrambling to follow diet plans.

Sharon quotes me as saying:

“Nobody is claiming all of obesity is exhaustion, but if people are clearly eating more than they need the question is not (just) how to get them to stop, but why, exactly, are they doing that. Maybe you’re losing your job. Or you’re overworked. Or it’s some private issue that needs to be addressed. You don’t fix obesity by giving people a copy of Canada’s food guide. You have to try to understand what it is that’s contributing to the weight gain.”

Exactly! Obesity is a symptom of overeating, which in turn is a symptom of something else that’s going on: it can be that you simply lack the knowledge about healthy nutrition or caloric content of foods, but it can also be a symptom of emotional (e.g. depression, vital exhaustion) or biological (e.g. MC-4 receptor defect) issue, medications (e.g. clozapine) or any number of other reasons I can think of.

Always remember: overeating (and/or sedentariness) is not a diagnosis – overeating (and/or sedentariness) is a symptom!

Edmonton, Alberta