I went live on Wednesday to discuss the childhood obesity epidemic. Right now more than 1 in 5 children are obese.
We talked about the many causes for obesity:
- Family issues during childhood
The ACEs study really brings to light a major source of the obesity epidemic in this country. Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, are traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years).
According to the book Scared Sick: The Role of Childhood Trauma in Adult Disease, teenagers living in poverty are 50% more likely than their wealthier peers to be overweight. Low-income people not only eat a poorer diet, they also experience more stress and have fewer resources that support healthy interventions.
These childhood traumas lead to addiction and food addiction is just one manifestation of that. Gastric bypass patients are extremely vulnerable to alcohol abuse, with estimates ranging from 5% to 30% of patients switching from food to alcohol addiction after the surgery.
As we discussed on the YouTube live, the participants in the ACEs study overate to assuage their feelings and used fat to buffer an underlying need not to be vulnerable—physically, emotionally or sexually. I know I can relate to this in a way. Growing up in Queens, NY, I experienced men calling out to me in the streets and even exposing and stroking themselves on the City bus for me to see (I was the only other passenger on the bus and a high school student at the time). These experiences were scary. Especially since in NYC, the news never seems to run out of assault and rape stories. I appreciated the tomboy look of my time (90s). It really helped hide me and provide some kind of mechanism to not be seen. I did not want that kind of attention. I did not know food was an option to make myself invisible so I used baggy clothes.
For the folks in the ACEs study, obesity was key to their sense of self-protection. One patient, a woman who had gained 105 pounds in the year after she was raped, said: “Overweight is overlooked, and that’s the way I need to be.” These stories are heartbreaking and hopefully can provide deeper understanding for the obesity crisis. Ultimately, we all just need to be kinder and nicer to each other. That seems to be the core of all of our societal issues.
Trauma is an extreme form of fear accompanied by a state of perceived helplessness—and often hopelessness.”
— Scared Sick: The Role of Childhood Trauma in Adult Disease by Robin Karr-Morse
The main difference between toxic stress and trauma is that trauma always triggers the freeze response. When we are unable to fight or flee, freezing is the only option left. Freezing is my default response. That’s what happens when I am being watched or noticed. When that guy was stroking himself and watching me on the bus and I was in the back of the bus across from him and the only other person was the driver all the way at the front, I was in a frozen panic. I had thoughts in my head of all the ways things could go down if I yelled out to the bus driver about what was happening so I waited for my stop, prayed that he would not touch me with his filthy hands and got off the bus.
Trauma—especially for children who have not yet learned language—tends to be stored in the brain as a somatic or “feeling” memory stored in unconscious memory. Somatic memories may surface later in life in the form of physical symptoms that seem to have no discernible cause, such as chronic pain, headache or fibromyalgia.
This is why I am a fan of somatic healing techniques. These tools include deep breathing, relaxation exercises, dance, exercise, yoga, vocal work, and “bodywork” akin to massage or physical therapy, and meditation. Qi Gong, dance, singing, sound healing meditation and wall yoga are my current favorites.
Back to all the gems in the book, Scared Sick, many researchers believe that “inborn” temperament is greatly influenced by experiences in the womb that shape who we become. For example, if you struggle with anxiety, it could stem from your time in utero. Our upbringing and experiences are the critical factors in determining our tendency toward anxiety. I know for many women I talk to, anxiety can trigger unhealthful behaviors so this is important to note.
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// HOST Samantha Salmon
Certified Integrative Nutrition Coach and Ambassador of Health and Happiness
The information provided in this broadcast is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration or the equivalent in your country. Any products/services mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.
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