Dysfunctional eating patterns and habits in overweight and obese adults

17 October 2019

Dysfunctional eating patterns and habits in overweight and obese adults

Hi All,

This study highlights something that I encounter commonly with my patients.  Dysfunctional eating behaviours such as sweet tooth craving, emotional eating and binge eating are described by many of my patients.  Dealing with the physical stomach volume by having a Bariatric operation is not necessarily going to address these eating behaviours.  This highlights why it is so important to have assistance with gaining skills and strategies for modifying dysfunctional eating behaviours in conjunction with your new, reduced size stomach.  Usually seeing a psychologist or counsellor with a special interest in eating disorders is a very positive approach.  It is not that these things can't be managed and controlled but rather that they need to be accepted and addressed as part of the total weight loss surgical experience.  I am a strong advocate for including other healthcare professionals in the care of my patients when necessary.  Anything to improve long term outcomes for my patients!

Happy researching!

Steph Ulmer



Dysfunctional eating patterns and habits in overweight and obese adults can be triggered by early life experiences that are deeply rooted within patients' personality features, meaning weight loss interventions such as bariatric surgery and cognitive-behaviour therapy might not be sufficient to guarantee long-term success.

"While the biological and environmental causes of obesity are well known, psychological determinants that might indicate chronic predispositions are less clear," explained lead investigator, Dr Barbara Basile, Association of Cognitive Psychology (APC), School of Cognitive Psychotherapy (SPC), Rome, Italy. "The results of our study suggest that dysfunctional eating patterns and habits associated with overweight and obesity are deeply rooted within patients' personality features and current interventions are not enough to guarantee a long-lasting effect."

For the study, ‘Early maladaptive schemas in overweight and obesity: A schema mode model’, published in Heliyon, cognitive psychologists used the Schema Therapy (ST) model to gain a deeper understanding of the emotional and psychological functioning of these individuals with a view towards developing more effective treatment options.

The key concepts within the ST approach include Early Maladaptive Schemas, Schema Modes and dysfunctional Coping strategies. All of these develop across the life span and originated in early childhood and adolescence, where emotional core needs, such as love and nurturance, safety, acceptance, autonomy, limits setting, etc, might not have been adequately satisfied by caregivers and significant others.

Using an ST framework, investigators assessed early maladaptive schema and coping modes in 75 normal, overweight and patients with obesity. Adults with overweight/obesity reported more maladaptive schemas and dysfunctional coping strategies when compared to normal-weight individuals. Moreover, investigators found that stressors trigger shifts from one coping mode to another, some predictive of frequent binge and bulimic behaviours.

Maladaptive schemas encapsulate dysfunctional thoughts and behaviours and map out patterns of perception, emotion, and physical sensation rooted in early life experiences that subsequently shape individuals' beliefs about themselves and the world. The dysfunctional schemas observed in obesity are linked to coping mechanisms resulting in self-defeating thoughts and emotion-avoidant food attitudes and behaviours.

"Our findings highlight the role of the Insufficient Self-Control schema among overweight and obese individuals, which manifests as difficulties in tolerating distress and restraining impulses,” noted Basile. “We also documented that overeating and bingeing behaviours serve as self-soothing strategies that help individuals to cut off their feelings and quiet their internalized ‘Punitive Parent’."

Among study participants, overeating and bingeing behaviours served as self-soothing strategies when they experienced feelings of abandonment (the belief others will be unavailable or unpredictable in their support or connection); dependence/incompetence (the belief that one has failed, or will fail in important life areas of achievement); and subjugation (the belief that one must surrender control to others), as well as to quiet internalised Punitive Parent voices (inner dialogue that is self-blaming, punishing, and abusive that causes one to detach emotionally and reject help). Frequent bingeing was associated with belief patterns of abandonment, enmeshment (being excessively emotionally involved and connected with others at the expense of full individuation or normal social development); and failure (the belief that one always fails in important life areas of achievement) schemas, as well as by those who react impulsively with anger and frustration (Impulsive/Undisciplined Child) and by those with a Punitive Parent inner dialogue.

Professor Basile and her co-investigators believe that this deeper understanding of the emotional and psychological functioning of obese patients, recognising the impact of early life experiences, might help clinicians promote the long-term efficacy of psychological interventions in overeating related pathologies.

Identifying each patient's unique maladaptive schema and modes is the first step of ST intervention. To help the patient deal with their future needs and emotions in a healthier way, treatment might also include:

  • Addressing and satisfying the frustrated core emotional needs, embedded in the vulnerable child mode, in a safe therapeutic relationship
  • De-potentiating the punitive parental mode and its destructive messages
  • Reducing dysfunctional coping mechanisms, such as the detached protector self-soothing
  • Expanding the healthy adult mode

"Addressing actual schema modes and the connected early experiences within a caring and solid clinical setting, such as the one used within ST practice, might be of particular value for obese patients," concluded Basi

Bariatric surgery reverses Fatty Liver Disease

23 July 2019

Bariatric surgery reverses Fatty Liver Disease

Hi All,

This is an area of improvement following weight loss surgery that is less well remembered.  The liver is just like any other organ in that it stores fat very efficiently if there is too much in the system.  However, over time these fatty deposits impair the ability of the liver to do its job!  Each cell stores fat which then compromises its essential cellular level functioning.  The liver is generally a very forgiving organ and unlike lots of adult structures, has the ability to self regenerate.  Shockingly, obesity has become the leading cause of liver cirrhosis in America - overtaking alcohol and viruses!  It is only once the liver develops cirrhosis that it loses the battle and is unable to regain its function in the longterm.  So, this is very reassuring news and yet another positive side effect of significant and long term weight loss that bariatric surgery can offer patients. Good news huh!



Laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy reverses non-alcoholic fatty liver disease modulating oxidative stress and inflammation

MetabolismCabré N, et al. | July 09, 2019


Researchers studied the modulation of hepatic indices of oxidative stress and inflammation in obese patients undergoing laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy (LSG) to examine the molecular mechanisms of hepatic alterations and to identify molecules that could be used as potential therapeutic targets. Study participants included 436 patients attending the obesity clinic who had LSG for weight loss. One year after surgery, there has been a significant reduction in the incidence of diabetes, dyslipidemia and hypertension. The findings demonstrate that patients with morbid obesity have considerably enhanced histology and liver function after LSG through mechanisms involving a decrease of oxidative stress and inflammatory processes. These data promote the use of LSG as a therapeutic alternative for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease improvement or resolution.

Effects of obesity surgery on mortality.

27 May 2019

Effects of obesity surgery on mortality.

Hello All,

This is a very powerful study that asks the question whether having Bariatric surgery actually makes you live longer. It is powerful because it has gathered data from 5 Nordic countries and is population based.  This means that data is collected on all comers who have had any type of bariatric surgery including Gastric Banding, Gastric Sleeve and Gastric Bypass and other less known about surgeries.  These people are then compared with matched obese people who do not have obesity surgery.  Pleasingly it finds that Bariatric surgery does help patients to live longer!  It also came up with a few other interesting findings that were less predicted...  Here is the article details that you can search for more details.  GastroenterologyKauppila JH, et al. | May 22, 2019


In this population-based cohort study, researchers ascertained if the survival times of bariatric surgery patients are similar to those of the general population and are longer than those of obese people who did not receive surgery. The study sample consisted of people with a diagnosis of obesity listed in nationwide registries from Nordic countries from 1980 through 2012. Of 505,258 participants, 49,977 had bariatric surgery. Patients with bariatric surgery had decreased overall mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes vs obese participants without surgery, but increased suicide mortality. Furthermore, the investigators found that obese patients with bariatric surgery had longer survival times than obese patients who did not have bariatric surgery, but their mortality was higher than that of the general population and increases over time. Obesity-related morbidities, however, could account for these findings.


Thank you for your enquiry. We will be in touch.

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