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Apr 16

Eating behavior causes obesity

eatingWhat is your worst eating habit? Is it nibbling at midnight, skipping breakfast, eating at stoplights, super-sizing your lunch? Or, maybe, you can’t think of one. For many people, the last choice is probably the most honest, because they never really think about their eating habits. They could not tell you what they had to eat yesterday, much less what they plan to eat at their next meal.

In a sense, it is not food itself that is the culprit causing obesity, but eating behavior, the ways in which people relate to food. Unhealthy behavior patterns cause people to use food as “comfort,” “consolation” or even as love. But specifically, which one or which combination of behavior patterns, contributes most to the obesity epidemic?

A team of researchers in Europe tried to answer this question by correlating levels of obesity to the self-reported behaviors of 1600 subjects. This study found that a combination of three behaviors was the most powerful way to produce an overweight subject. Do you think that the worst offenders were drinking too much beer or too many soft drinks, eating pies or fried foods or binging on sweets? Well, in this study, no particular food group was identified.

Instead of pointing to some individual food “villain” or groups of villains, this study identified food behaviors, the general ways in which the subjects related to food of all types. They found that a combination of three behaviors were especially potent when it comes to gaining weight. Those behaviors were – k

  • Eating while watching TV.
  • Eating at fast-food restaurants.
  • Not planning the amount of food you’re going to eat.

American and European societies are not exactly alike, but there are enough similarities to transfer some of these findings to ourselves. When it comes to time spent watching television each day, 7 of the top 10 TV-viewing nations are in Europe, but the United States is in first place. In 2016, an average American watched TV over four hours a day. The website Statistica.com reports that TV-viewing time is growing as “timeshifting” (the ability to easily record material for later viewing) becomes more popular.

Our May 2017 Newsletter addressed this issue in an article titled, “Mindful Eating.” When a person is absorbed in a TV drama or an exciting sports event, it is easy to fall into the habit of “mindless” eating. The link between this behavior and weight gain is easy to see, so begin to eliminate distractions when you are eating. Do not eat while watching TV, listening to radio, reading or working.

Like TV viewing, America leads the world in fast-food dining. “Supersizing” the calorie count at lunchtime can wreck your diet plan (if you have one) for the entire day. One way to address this behavior may be to always pay for fast food with cash, not the all-too-easy cell phone or plastic card.

The third behavior, not planning the amount of food consumed, is due in part to the nature of modern life with its two working spouses and constant time demands. For most of human history, the biggest food-related problem was just getting enough to eat. Today, your entire daily calorie requirement can be had in 5 minutes of microwave cooking with no thinking or planning. Unfortunately, most people devote very little thought to what or how much they eat.

At least this European study tells Americans that we are not alone in our bad diet habits. The epidemic of obesity and obesity-related disease is spreading around the world. If you have decided in your own personal life that it is time to do something about your weight, there are many resources at hand to help. Our office can help you locate bariatric clinic services available locally, many at Florida Hospital. A Bariatric Support Group meets in our office on the 3rd Thursday of each month. You can find out more about the medically supervised weight loss programs available by clicking Weight Loss Programs or from our Home Page. A big part of our general surgery practice is bariatric surgery. Modern laparoscopy procedures have made weight loss surgery a practical alternative for many more patients. Both the gastric sleeve and the gastric bypass procedures have proven effective treatments for obesity and obesity-related medical conditions.

If you have any question about the areas included in general surgery, especially bariatric surgery, please contact our office. You may use Contact Dr Birkedal or phone us at (386) 231-3530. Our offices, located in Daytona, New Smyrna and Palm coast are all part of the Florida Hospital Network.

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