La Salle Tackles Obesity

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This map from 2013 shows the severity of obesity across the United States.

More than one third of adults in the United States are obese. Obesity can cause heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer if left untreated. To combat this growing issue, La Salle University’s psychology department is working to target obesity.

Dr. Edie Goldbacher, a La Salle psychology professor, studies eating patterns and weight difficulties. Because of La Salle’s urban location, professionals are able to provide services to people who may have otherwise not been able to afford them. “I’ve come to appreciate the importance of offering services to people who are really in need, which is one of the things I really like about what we can do here at La Salle,” said Goldbacher.

Some factors that contribute to obesity include: decreases in physical activity, miseducation about the severity of obesity, lack of access to healthy foods and portion sizes. Portion sizes have increased over the years, so people are used to eating much more food than their great-grandparents did way back when, for example. “Portion sizes have changed dramatically over time. For an extra ten cents you can triple the value of the meal,” said Goldbacher.

According to the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, obesity emerges because “genetics loads the gun and the environment pulls the trigger.” While genetics do not directly cause obesity, they are a factor for placing an individual at a greater risk for developing it. Goldbacher explained “Environmental factors are going to make it even more difficult for a person to have a healthy weight. If a person has a history of family obesity, they themselves will have a higher risk. That coupled with living in a food desert makes it even more problematic.”

These factors have contributed to obesity all over America, even right here in La Salle’s own neighborhood. Goldbacher and other clinical psychologists are working to help treat individuals with obesity through their Behavioral Weight Loss Treatment program. “There’s a lot of research supporting this type of treatment,” Goldbacher said.

The treatment involves six steps: self-monitoring, goal setting, problem solving, stimulus control, coping and relapse prevention. The program focuses on paying close attention to the foods that you are consuming. “When we’re not paying attention to eating, you may eat more unhealthy foods,” said Goldbacher.

By assisting residents in the surrounding neighborhood with obesity education and programs to target obesity, La Salle is aiming to decrease obesity and increase healthy lifestyles.

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