Latest study has found that emotional eating is behind the obesity epidemic in Australia in recent years. Findings have shown that 83 percent of obese or overweight Australian adults are eating emotionally.

National weight management group Cambridge Weight Plan found that the brutal obesity cycle is triggered by depression and stress in overweight or obese adults. Over 90 percent of women in Australian who have weight problems eat for comfort; and the same was found in 86 percent of men in the country, explained Dr. Ali Dale from the Cambridge group.

"Even if it's not a diagnosable mental health condition we know that if you're overweight then you're more likely to have certain hormones released into your system and you're more likely to look for high fat, high sugar foods," she said. Increased intake of high sugar and high fat foods leads to increased weight gain. This keeps people inside the vicious obesity cycle.

Australia's anti-obesity campaigns focus on encouraging people to eat less and increase exercise. Dale said the campaigns' main message is too simplistic. Dale highlighted that there are many studies on the science behind people's comfort eating habits. Dale hopes that new campaigns will focus on increasing awareness about human's complex relationship with food.

"Tough love is undoubtedly useful in the context of obesity because, at the end of the day, a successful resolution to the obesity crisis will require that individuals initiate changes by themselves and for themselves," said psychologist Scott Griffiths who's getting a Ph.D. at the University of Sydney.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics' 2014 to 2015 National Health Survey, about 63.4 percent of all Australians are obese or overweight, which is slightly higher compared to the 62.8 percent of 2011 to 2012. The survey also found that one in every four children aged 5 to 17 years old are either obese or overweight.

In the last two years, the Australian Federal Government spent over $100 million in its quest to tackle weight gain and obesity using the point of view of mental health. This expenditure doesn't cover the separate anti-obesity projects funded by territory and state governments.

Photo: Pedro Figueiredo | Flickr

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