Category Archive: Health

Tips for Losing Weight Changing Behavior & Getting Support

Dealing with obesity and similar weight-control problems requires adopting new habits that foster a healthier lifestyle, but don’t attempt radical changes to your diet or activity patterns. You risk not only compounding what is already a precarious health situation, but also overlooking the core attitude and emotional issues that caused obesity in the first place.

Instead, consider a team approach that involves several qualified health professionals. Your physician will help you develop a safe plan for losing weight that includes both diet and exercise. A psychologist can help you with the emotional side of the equation-the stress, depression, or experiences that caused you to gain weight.

Here are some other things to consider in helping you or someone you know take action against obesity: Think about what you eat and why. Track your eating habits by writing down everything you eat, including time of day and amount of food. Also record what was going through your mind at the time. Were you sad or upset with something? Or, had you just finished a stressful experience and felt the need for “comfort food?”

Cut down on portions while eating the same foods. Along with making dieting feel less depriving, you’ll soon find that the smaller portions are just as satisfying. This will also give you a platform to safely curb your appetite even more.

Note that while treating obesity often helps decrease feelings of depression, weight loss is never successful if you remain burdened by stress and other negative feelings. You may have to work to resolve these issues first before beginning a weight- loss program.

Losing weight is always easier when you have the support of friends and family. Try to enlist the entire household in eating a healthier diet. Many hospitals and schools also sponsor support groups made up of people who offer each other valuable encouragement and support. Research shows that people who participate in such groups lose more weight than going it alone.

Use the “buddy system.” Ask a friend or family member to be “on-call” for moral support when you’re tempted to stray from your new lifestyle. Just be sure you’re not competing with this person to lose weight.

Don’t obsess over “bad days” when you can’t help eating more. This is often a problem for women who tend to be overly hard on themselves for losing discipline. Look at what thoughts or feelings caused you to eat more on a particular day, and how you can deal with them in ways other than binge eating. A psychologist can help you formulate an action plan for managing these uncomfortable feelings.

Article reprinted with permission from the American Psychological Association.


Obesity The Mind & Body Connection

Obesity is one of the nation’s fastest-growing and most troubling health problems. If you have a very high body mass index (BMI) -that is, your weight is significantly more than what is generally considered healthy for your height-you may be increasing the risk of many serious health conditions, including hypertension, heart disease and stroke, Type 2 diabetes, gallbladder disease, chronic fatigue, asthma, sleep apnea, and some forms of cancer.

For women, obesity can lead to problems in the reproductive system. And studies show that severe cases of obesity can reduce your life expectancy, particularly if you are a young adult.

The causes of obesity are rarely limited to genetic factors, prolonged overeating, or a sedentary lifestyle. What we do and don’t do often results from how we think and feel. For example, feelings of sadness, anxiety, or stress often lead people to eat more than usual. Unless you act to address these emotions, however, these short-term coping strategies can lead to long-term problems.

The mind & body connection

Obesity is also frequently accompanied by depression and the two can trigger and influence each other. Although women are slightly more at risk for having an unhealthy BMI than men, they are much more vulnerable to the obesity-depression cycle. In one study, obesity in women was associated with a 37% increase in major depression. There is also a strong relationship between women with a high BMI and more frequent thoughts of suicide.

Depression can both cause and result from stress, which, in turn, may cause you to change your eating and activity habits. Many people who have difficulty recovering from sudden or emotionally draining events (e.g., loss of a close friend or family member, relationship difficulties, losing a job, or facing a serious medical problem) unknowingly begin eating too much of the wrong foods or forgoing exercise. Before long, these become habits and difficult to change.

Binge eating, a behavior associated with both obesity and other conditions such as anorexia nervosa, is also a symptom of depression. A study of obese people with binge eating problems found that 51 percent also had a history of major depression. Additional research shows that obese women with binge-eating disorder who experienced teasing about their appearance later developed body dissatisfaction and depression.

Article reprinted with permission from the American Psychological Association.


How to Help a Friend or Loved One Suffering from a Chronic Illness – Providing Support

If someone you love is diagnosed with cancer or a life- threatening disease, you may feel desperate and completely helpless. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Research has shown us that family and friends can play a huge role in helping patients deal with a chronic illness.

When a person is suffering from a chronic illness, it’s important that they feel truly cared about. What matters most is how people interact with the sick person.

Here are some ways that patients and their families can get the kind of support they want from others:

  • Put an end to family secrets. In other words, honesty is still the best policy. We often try to protect our families and loved ones from bad news, but hiding a person’s serious illness from the rest of the family can backfire. Communicate directly and be open with family members.
  • Include your children. Although their understanding of the situation may be limited, children still appreciate being told what’s going on around them. Children can sometimes view themselves as the cause of problems or major events that happen around them. They may view a parent’s illness as being caused by something they did. Be open, honest, let children know it’s okay to ask questions. This will help relieve some of their anxiety. Remember, a child can be a great source of laughter and warmth for a sick individual.
  • Be selective. Everybody under the sun doesn’t need to know about your illness or your loved one’s illness. Choose who you care to share your news with carefully. Some relationships will prosper and some will become strained. What’s important is that you feel that sharing the information with an individual will provide a stronger sense of support and strength.
  • Be clear about how family and friends can help. People want to feel useful. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help or favors, such as cooking a meal or helping with the school carpool.
  • Finally, if someone you love if suffering from a chronic illness, learn about the disease, help out with daily errands and chores, and give emotional support. Sometimes we all need a shoulder to cry on.


Getting Beyond “Why Me?” Surviving Cancer

Your Health Team

Cancer is a serious and complex disease. To fight it you will need a team of health professionals, all bringing their own specific specialties to your recovery, including your primary care physician and an oncologist who specializes in cancer treatment. You also are likely to see a surgeon and perhaps other specialists as well. A mental health professional is an important team player as well. Psychologists and other mental health professionals work directly with patients and their families, as well as with the entire medical team, to help personalize the patient’s medical decisions, manage treatment side effects, improve communication, provide support, and enhance emotional recovery and well-being.

Cancer Treatment Can Be as Difficult as the Disease Itself

Conventional cancer treatments, from surgery to chemotherapy, are themselves traumatic to the patient. However, in many cases they are known to save lives. Some patients may decide to pursue dietary and lifestyle changes as part of their primary treatment regimen. Psychologists have techniques to make adherence to these new behaviors easier and more successful.

Psychological interventions have also proven to be extremely effective in helping patients handle the pain and symptoms of the disease and the side effects of treatment. For example, techniques used by psychologists can significantly reduce anxiety before surgery and decrease the nausea that often precedes and accompanies chemotherapy. Psychological interventions can also help the majority of cancer patients who report debilitating pain. Psychological techniques can be used to create positive imagery, increase the motivation to adhere to new behaviors, and facilitate reentry into the real world once medical treatment has been completed.

The post-treatment period is usually ignored; yet emotional recovery from the trauma of cancer treatment may take longer than physical recovery. Psychological services can help mitigate the long- term effects of cancer treatment.

Cancer Affects Whole Families

When one member of a family has cancer, the whole family is affected; in fact, psychologists consider these family members to be “secondary patients.” Cancer affects the entire family, not only because there are genetic links to cancer and cancer risk, but also because when one member of a family has cancer, the whole family must deal with the illness.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, help for the entire family may be in order. For example, when a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, her spouse or housemate may need to take on new responsibilities at home; relatives and friends may be needed to participate in the day-to-day running of the household; and any children involved will need special attention. Good communication among all the players and protection against caregiver burnout is imperative. A psychologist can help construct a game plan that works for all family members during every phase of the illness.

Article reproduced with permission from the American Psychological Association