Overeating is a health issue that results in obesity in individuals with an eating disorder that results in over-consumption of food products. Various programs are in use by the psychology profession to address the issue of overeating with many of them stating claims of success. This work intends to examine overeating as it relates to the principles of healthy psychology.
According to the work of Prentice (2001) entitled "Overeating: The Health Risks" published in the journal of Obesity Research states that overeating "is a relative term. It refers to the consumption of an energy intake that is appropriately large for a given energy expenditure, thus leading to obesity." There are reportedly specific "environmental and cultural factors that have converged in the past few decades to markedly increase the risk of both active and passive (inadvertent) overeating. Chief among these are the increased availability and promotion of cheap energy-dense diets (usually high in fat) and the transition toward extremely sedentary lifestyles." (Prentice, 2001)
III. Significance of the Study
The significance of this study is the additional information and knowledge that will be added to the already existing base of knowledge in this area of inquiry.
IV. Literature Review
A. Food Types Impact Eating Habits
Prentice (2001) emphasizes the importance of considering factors including the types of foods that are readily available in contemporary society along with increases in sedentary lifestyles as "data ranging from highly controlled metabolic studies to large-scale epidemiological and ecological analysis illustrate the strong interactions between diet and physical activity in relationship to the over-consumption of energy." In addition, it is reported that overconsumption of "specific dietary components may also lead to health risks." (Prentice, 2001) Prentice reports that examples include "saturated and transfatty acids. More recently attention has switched to high glycemic foods and to n-6 fatty acids." (Prentice, 2001)
B. Active and Passive Overeating
Prentice additionally reports that short-term overeating "is a common human habit associated with feasting and celebration. In traditional societies, this does no harm and may well do considerable good by replenishing body fat stores in environmental conditions in which extreme seasonality imposes a feasting and fasting mode of survival. It is when overeating becomes sustained over long periods that it becomes a health risk. The fundamentals of the energy balance equation dictate that long-term overeating will always lead to body fat storage and obesity." (2001) Overeating in the modern world is stated to be of the nature of a "relative phenomenon, where the appropriateness of any level of energy intake is judged against a person's level of energy expenditure." (Prentice, 2001) The energy intake requirements appropriate for one individual may well not be appropriate energy intake levels in another individual. Energy intake is relevant since findings shown that "there is good evidence that the low levels of energy expenditure associated with modern living (sloth) are at least as important as any willful overeating (gluttony)." (Prentice, 2001) Prentice (2001) states that there are actually two sides to overeating. The following illustration serves to assist in the explanation of precisely what is meant by Prentice.
Two Sides to Overeating
Source: Prentice (2001)
Overeating, according to Prentice (2001) can be both active and passive in that "active overeating can be induced by a number of conditions: a cognate drive to consume above one's natural appetite (driven by either internal or external cues), a constitutional defect in appetite regulation (as occurs in many of the rare monogenic forms of human obesity), an inappropriate psychological response to stress, or a physical or pharmacological disruption of the hypothalamic satiety center." (Prentice, 2001) Passive overeating is described as a separate phenomenon in which the consumption by small of amounts of food that would be absolutely appropriate against a background of normal physical activity has been rendered excessive by modern sedentary living." (Prentice, 2001)
Active overeating is known to occur in humans "for cultural reasons among populations in which fatness is esteemed." (Prentice, 2001) It is stated that an example of this is that of "urban Gambia, where the prevalence of obesity is >35% in middle-aged women and <2% in men. Clearly, there is a gender-dependent active process at play that reflects a cultural desire for fatter women who are considered both more affluent and more attractive. Various Polynesian Islanders also esteem fatness, and their obesity statistics bear this out." (Prentice, 2001) Marketing is reported to be that which drives active overeating in the Western societies and Prentice reports that when individuals from other countries visit the United States that they are "shocked by the excessive portion sizes served at food outlets." (2001)
C. Overeating is Addictive
Overeating is additionally reported to be addictive. (Stunkard, et al., 1996) This is stated to be "sometimes initiated by inappropriate responses to life stresses (specially aversion to weight gain) and leads to bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and night eating disorder. Bulimics suffer acute psychological pathology but are often not obese because they use purging as a means of reversing the energy overload. Binge eating disorder patients, in contrast, can constitute up to one-third of the case load in tertiary-level obesity clinics." (Stunkard, et al., 1997 cited in Prentice, 2001)
All of the monogenic causes of obesity in human which are known and include "lep-, lepR-, MC4R defect, Prader-Willi and Bardet-Biedel syndromes…" are reported to be cause by safety mechanism failure that results in "a voracious appetite and, hence, overeating." (Prentice, 2001) According to Prentice and Jeff (1999) the rapid and extreme fat deposition accompanying many of these defects underlines the importance of the energy intake side of the energy balance equation in causing obesity. Rare cases of physical injury to the hypothalamus have also resulted in a similar failure of satiety mechanisms leading to gross obesity. Numerous pharmacological agents (including several that are prescribed to improve insulin sensitivity) also stimulate appetite and cause profound weight gain." (Prentice, 2001) It is reported that physical inactivity "compounds the effects of high-fat, energy-dense diets, causing positive energy balance." (Prentice, 2001)
Effect of Overt Manipulation of Dietary Fat Content on Human Fat Balance
Source: Prentice (2001)
Data shows "changes in 7-day fat balance (measured by continuous whole-body calorimetry) for six men allowed to eat ad libitum from diets in which the percentage of energy from fat had been covertly manipulated." (Lisner, et al., 1987 cited in: Prentice, 2001)
Interactions Between High-Fat, Energy-Dense Diets and Physical Inactivity in Causing Energy Retention
Data in the above illustration shows energy balance (as measure by continuous whole-body calorimetry) for nine men allowed to eat ad libitum from diets in which the percentage of energy from fat had been covertly manipulated with different activity levels imposed." (Blair and Brodney, 1999 cited in Prentice, 2001)
D. Overeating is Predominant in Women
Overeating in women is more predominant than in men and in fact it is reported "more than 10 million women and girls suffer from eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia." (Emotional Eating Solution, 2011) It is held by experts that 50 to 70% of individual with 'binge eating disorders' are women. (Emotional Eating Solution, 2011, paraphrased)
The work of Ackard, Neumark-Sztainer and Story (2003) reports a study that was conducted for the purpose of assessing overeating among adolescents and for the purpose of examining the links between overeating and sociodemographic characteristics, weight status, dieting behaviors, body satisfaction, depressive mood, self-esteem and suicide. The study reports findings, which state "overeating among adolescents is associated with a number of adverse behaviors and negative psychological experiences. As the current study is cross-sectional, it is not possible to ascertain cause and effect." (Ackard, Neumark-Sztainer and Story, 2003) Sociodemographic factors include ethnic specific and cultural factors and for example the work of Berry (2004) which reports that African-American individuals are "disproportionately impacted" by diseases and complications arising from overeating behaviors. (Berry, 2004) Berry (2004) notes that behavioral changes are needed to address overeating problems.
E. Programs for Treating Overeating Behaviors
One of the programs that has been geared toward treatment of overeating behaviors is that referred to as 'balance intervention', which promoted caloric compensatory behaviors in response to overeating. The report states that at follow-up found were "significantly more positive attitudes, intentions and dietary action in the print and radio groups. However, participants who received the radio advertisement had a significantly lower perceived behavioral control. No effects were found on the prevalence of overeating. The results indicate that the intervention materials have potential for increasing people's attitudes, motivation and self-reported behavior actions, with a possible negative side-effect on perceived behavioral control." (Wammes, Breedweld, Kremers, and Brug, 2005)
V. Summary & Future Direction
This work in writing has reviewed the literature available related to overeating among individuals and notes that there is a great deal of information in this area of study however, none of the information available claims exclusivity in terms of successful treatment and neither does any of the literature reviewed claim to have all of the answers relating to overeating disorders.…