When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, many people argue over the real causes of obesity. La Salle University’s Community Psychological Services is striving to help people in the Germantown community get on the right track towards healthy, nutritious living.
Dr. Edie Goldbacher, a professor of psychology at La Salle University, is helping the clinic tackle the issue. She emphasizes the debate of what causes obesity, and how it is a battle of nature vs. nurture.
“Genetics loads the gun, Environment pulls the trigger,” said Goldbacher, who’s research interests have focused on weight- and eating-related concerns. In particular, she is interested in the construct of emotional eating and its association with weight change and psychological well-being.
“A lot of times people blame the individual but it’s not really an individual problem. It’s a combination of genes and environment.”
Goldbacher supervises a clinic team in the doctoral program which focuses on weight management and disordered eating. The clinic is held in St. Benilde Tower at La Salle University, and is open to the community.
“Where La Salle is located, a food desert with very few fresh places to buy food, is often susceptible to these environmental factors,” said Goldbacher. “With mostly corner stores and fast food places are in the area, it is more reasonable for residents to choose cheap, unhealthy options.”
Are these conscious choices that people are making?
“It’s hard to decrease caloric intake when you are constantly surrounded by these types of foods. It’s not really about willpower it’s about so many other factors: mindless eating, not having the time, not having the resources. So part of what we do is help people make different choices and make the most of the environment in which they are presented.”
Many factors in people’s lives affect the nutrition and weight issue. “They usually have a lot of other stressers and/or are experiencing depression, anxiety, social stress… it’s this confluence of factors that make it difficult for people to implement the changes that they know they should make, but they can’t quite figure out how to make it stick.”
In a publication written by Theodore K. Kyle and Rebecca M. Puhl titled, “Putting People First in Obesity,” they explain how bias and discrimination against people with obesity creates obstacles. “Obese is an identity. Obesity is a disease. By addressing the disease separately from the person-and doing it consistently-we can pursue this disease while fully respecting the people affected.”
Goldbacher and the clinic at La Salle are demonstrating that: helping others overcome the struggle of obesity and malnutrition.
To enter the program, people interested in changing their eating habits interview a student clinician to learn more about what difficulties they’re having. They then transition into working with someone individually who will help them change their eating patterns.
The goal is to change the way people thing about eating, and psychology helps understand the source of the problem. Goldbacher stated that approximately 1-5% of the population binge eat.
La Salle University’s Community Psychological Services: Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight Clinic is low cost, sliding scale services. They provide individualized services concerning eating difficulties, and strive to improve treatment options, availability and outcomes.
To learn more about obesity, nutrition, and other health and wight related issues, visit http://yaleruddcenter.org/ where you can find many publications on the issue.