Dr. Norman B. Anderson outlines important steps to deal with the growing problem of obesity in our country "Our duty to an overweight nation" (November Monitor). But there is another crucial part that psychologists can play in helping to ameliorate this public health problem. They can teach overweight individuals crucial cognitive and behavioral skills to allow them to achieve permanent weight loss—among many others, how to motivate themselves daily, how to get themselves to consistently implement good eating habits, how to respond to unhelpful thinking (that allows them to deviate from their eating plan or skip exercise), how to decatastrophize and tolerate hunger, how to cope with craving and how to deal with inevitable feelings of unfairness, deprivation, disappointment and discouragement. Anyone can make short-term changes in his or her eating behavior. Change in cognition is essential, though, for long-term behavioral change.
Judith S. Beck, PhD
Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
I am delighted that APA President Alan Kazdin is focusing attention on climate change issues and how psychologists can make a difference. What I have not seen in any of the commentary on this topic thus far is the important role that behavior in terms of dietary choices play. A growing body of research demonstrates that one of the most effective ways in which we can reduce our carbon footprint is to reduce meat consumption. Confined animal feeding operations exert a heavy toll on our environment. The meat-centered diet that most Americans continue to subscribe to is also a contributing factor to a large variety of individual health problems. The American love affair with meat needs to be challenged and viewed in light of the health risk that it poses for both humans and the planet.
Tammy D. Allen, PhD
In "A big, fat problem" in the October Monitor, Kelly Brownell, PhD, makes an appeal to psychologists to increase focus on obesity prevention. I agree that more emphasis should be placed on prevention. As a health education professional, I have seen firsthand the direct impact of healthier diets, increased exercise and weight loss on improving chronic conditions and influencing family practices.
Part of the obesity problem is a lack of a stronger multidisciplinary approach to obesity prevention. Professionals working in mental health, health promotion, exercise physiology, dietetics and medicine are all working collectively in some combination on this problem; however, the strength of the collective team is sometimes weak in terms of team membership. So now the question is: Who should be at the table? Across all levels of change (individual, group, organization, community and government), the answer can be derived from a holistic wellness approach—assessing all dimensions of the targeted level of change.
Dr. Brownell talks about putting more scientific research in the hands of policymakers. Psychologists are known for influencing policy and can provide significant research on food and addiction and harmful marketing. By working with multiple disciplines, the impact of such research will not only be likely to change policy, but may also change attitudes and behaviors and improve practices, programs and resources.
Chenetra D. Bradley
Consider this: Ironic, is it not, that our organization fights for professional recognition with the American Medical Association and the Associated Press while at the same time challenging the National Association of School Psychologists and the profession of school psychology for their right to maintain their legally defined identities as psychologists?
Larry B. Gorbel, PhD
ADHD and medicationChristopher Munsey's article "New insights on ADHD treatment" (October Monitor) is all fine and dandy, but seems to pander to popular social perception without addressing reality. If it is true that "Medication should not play nearly as large a role as it does currently in the treatment of ADHD," then I have some questions: Aside from the opinions expressed by a couple of people in the editorial, what scientific support exists to validate such an opinion? How many scientific articles have been published in peer-reviewed professional journals that support this opinion? How many experimental studies have been completed? How many subjects have been studied? If medication is going to play a lesser role in the treatment of ADHD, then who is going to provide other services, what are they going to do and where is the money going to come from? Let's say we want behavior intervention plans for ADHD and other students who may need them. Just who is going to do all this work? Teachers don't have the time. Counselors don't have the training. Functional assessments and behavior plans are probably a psychologist-level intervention. So practically speaking the schools need a psychologist or behavior specialist in each building to write, implement and monitor behavior plans in addition to providing programs and services to these students. I don't think the public will pay for such services. Editorial opinion not backed with realistic plans about who will do the work and how it will be paid for is just pandering.
David Lemire, PhD
Klamath Falls, Ore.
Please send letters to Sara Martin, Monitor editor, at the APA address. Letters should be no more than 250 words and may be edited for clarity or space.