A Radical New Plan to Help Stress Eaters, the Economy and Health Care

Empty wallet, full belly? The Secret to Feeling Better in a Lousy Economy

Posted Aug 22, 2009

VIDEO: Dr. Albers's interview Shrinking Economy, Growing Waistlines on youtube

Jessica was referred to counseling by her doctor.  For several years, her physician's gentle nudge to lose weight became a direct order. Type II diabetes was looming.  Heart disease had robbed other family members of long lives.  As if things couldn't get worse, when the economy fell, she lost a lot of her savings.  In a matter of months, she gained more weight.  Reluctantly, she admitted that she needed help, fast. 

When we started counseling, I asked Jessica to make a list of all the fad diets she had tried in the past five years.  There were some of the usual suspects such as the South Beach Diet, Atkins, the Detox Diet, the No Sugar Diet and the Peanut Butter Diet (okay, she was getting a little desperate).  You get the idea.  Some of the diets provided moderate success.  But, ultimately the weight came back and she just could not keep it off.  Our first task:  to tear up the list and stop trying an approach that obviously did not work for her. Good bye dieting, hello mindful eating.

Jessica isn't alone.  The tough economic times hit everyone's waistline hard. Cheap food and junk food became an easy, affordable way to comfort ourselves.  Unfortunately, this was a one way ticket to increasing obesity and thus health care costs.  

According to the CDC, obesity related health care costs approximately 147 billion dollars annually.  Click here for the statistics. Brace yourself, the numbers are depressing.

Don't get me wrong. Obesity and weight gain are extremely complex issues that are multidimensional in nature.  To really get to the root of it would take many different approaches working together (biological, psychological, social factors).  However, I can't help but wonder and hope that there is a better way than the unsucsessful (and sometimes harmful diets) that many people try repeatedly. 

The government is savvy to the simple idea that being at a healthy weight=less health care costs.  They've given awards to some institutions that are trying to help further this very goal.

Could mindful eatings be the answer to reducing, even by a fraction, the health care costs?  I hope so. Several studies have shown the benefits of mindful eating.  For example, a new study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed the benefits of mindful eating to weight loss.  Mindful eaters are more in tune with their bodies and thus are aware of and respond better to their appetite and fullness.  They are better able to ignore environmental cues to eat (seeing a box of donuts) when they aren't hungry.

Let's keep our fingers crossed for a better, stronger economy to come.  In the mean time, let's do the best we can to take care of ourselves and bodies. We all have to find non calories ways to ease the stress of a rocky economy.

To learn more about mindful eating:


by: Susan Albers, author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food

*An Eight Week Mindful Eating Education Program Increases Self Efficacy and Weight Loss
Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 108, Issue 9, Pages A37-A37
C. Rott, C. Seaborn, C. Schmidt, R. Tafalla, J. Pejsa, N. Evers

About the Author

Susan Albers, Psy.D., is a psychologist who specializes in eating issues, weight loss, body image concerns and mindfulness. 

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