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Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study Reveals Obesity’s Connection to Childhood Trauma

According to the CDC (2017) “Non-Hispanic blacks have the highest age-adjusted rates of obesity (48.1%) followed by Hispanics (42.5%), non-Hispanic whites (34.5%), and non-Hispanic Asians (11.7%). Obesity is higher among middle age adults age 40-59 years (40.2%) and older adults age 60 and over (37.0%) than among younger adults age 20–39 (32.3%).”

Dr. Felittis is the Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians. A graduate of Johns Hopkins Medical School, Dr. Felitti is an internist who founded, then served as the Chief of the Department of Preventive Medicine for Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, CA.

He and Dr. Robert Anda, constructed the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study of 17,000 adults and provided a window into the overwhelming connection and formidable relationship between childhood emotional experiences and obesity. They demonstrate a correlation between childhood exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV), sexual abuse, household dysfunction and neglect its impact on over eating in adulthood.

Dr. Felittis and other clinicians also recognize that depression, adult maltreatment, PTSD, anxiety, sleep disorders, anti-social behavior, self-blame, economic distress and low self-esteem are all consequences of exposure to childhood trauma. Hetzel-riggin & Meads (2011) postulate that with an increase in childhood maltreatment there is also an uptick in mental illness, domestic violence (perpetrators and victim) and sexual assault and even suicide in adulthood.

Since emerging adults differ from adults in that they are exploring their identity and working toward stability as they launch from their familial homes, it is crucial to understand how childhood maltreatment impacts their development in an effort to ensure treatment redirects their paths (Munsey, 2006).

Watch video of Dr. Felittis here

It is vital to seek treatment as obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Internal Family Systems Therapy, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, Narrative Therapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy are all exceedingly effective in processing emotional dysregulation and promoting a healthier connection to food and interpersonal relationships.

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