Understand Contemporary Issues in Health Psychology – Anorexia and Obesity
Some people argue that the cause of obesity can be explained by the social learning theory (SLT). People who support this approach are suggesting that the habits that cause obesity, such as portion control, over-eating and bad food choices, are learnt from the people around us, e.g. family, friends, peers etc., and from the environment around us. For example, we learn to overeat from the big portions we are served at fast food restaurants and large home-cooked meals. Many people believe that anorexia can also be explained by the social learning theory. People struggling with their weight see role models in the media, such as celebrities like Kiera Knightly, being praised by the media for looking thin and want to be like them and be praised so they continue losing weight. Alternatively, some people believe that obesity can be explained by the biological approach. Meaning that there is something in a person’s genes and DNA that causes them to be overweight. For example, there has been research into whether a certain chromosome causes a person to absorb more fat from food than the average person. According to many studies into anorexia, this mental disorder is caused by a lack of serotonin (the hormone causing happiness) in the brain. And can therefore be explained by biology. It could also be argued that obesity and anorexia can be explained by the behaviourist approach. This approach says behaviours are learnt by either positive or negative reinforcement (operant conditioning). An individual could learn to eat very little or too much by being rewarded for doing it. For example, a person may cut out carbohydrates from their diet and consequently lose weight, if they are then complemented on their weight loss they will want to repeat the behaviour.
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