Obesity is growing topic at Grand Valley

Hannah Lentz

Gov. Rick Snyder recently announced that combatting obesity is now a statewide health initiative under the direction of the Michigan Department of Community Health.

At Grand Valley State University, a group of faculty and students are contributing to the fight by conducting a study to test a model of a team-based approach for patient centered care regarding obesity.

The researchers will include a professional team of licensed social workers, bachelor nursing students and athletic training students. The group is looking for participants from the campus community to take part in a weight loss program.

The program will consist of four foundational behavior-based educational sessions that focus on overall wellness, nutrition, eating behaviors and physical activity. These sessions will occur every other week over the course of eight weeks.

In addition, the program will be individualized based on each participant’s personal interests and health goals. All aspects of the study will work toward a better understanding of personal health and ways to deal with weight related problems.

“Weight gain is multifactorial,” said Brenda Pawl, director of special projects for the Vice Provost for Health at GVSU. “Sedentary lifestyle changes result in a loss of muscle mass and a gain in fat mass, which equates to a slower metabolism. Additionally, stress, which often includes a lack of sleep, can cause hormonal and emotional responses to food for students.”

On GVSU’s Allendale Campus, the Health and Wellness Center maintains a focus on healthy and responsible weight control using the “Health at Every Size” approach. With this angle, on-campus dietitians stress the importance of creating a healthy relationship with food, rather than dieting. They are also looking into the emotional and personal reasons people are invested in food, which is an aspect that will also be focused on in the study.

“Chronic dieting limits the ability of people to trust their body and can negatively impact their self-esteem”, said Lori Schermers, consulting dietitian. “People have a more peaceful relationship with food when they focus on taking care of their body through wholesome nutrition, intuitive eating, pleasurable activity and acceptance of their natural body weight.”

According to the National Heart Association, more than 154.7 million American adults aged 20 and older are overweight or obese. The total costs related to overweight and obese individuals’ health related needs is estimated to be $254 billion with the potential to reach $957 billion by 2030.

The most common diseases related to obesity are diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The estimated annual medical cost for people with obesity is roughly $1,400 higher than the annual medical cost of those with normal weight.

“95% of people who lose weight gain it back within five years,” Schermers said. “This is evidence that diets don’t work. Exploring one’s current relationship with food, weight and activity is an important part of attaining a healthy lifestyle.”

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