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Has obesity affected your cognitive abilities?

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Old 08-10-2013, 11:58 PM   #1
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Default Has obesity affected your cognitive abilities?

I was watching this documentary, "The Weight of the Nation" and one of the doctors mentioned that a high fat percentage in the body affects how you process information.

This isn't the first time I'm hearing this. I've heard it many times before in other documentaries and even from people who are quite obese such as myself.

The thing is, I've felt it myself. When I was closer to a normal weight 10 years ago, memorization and comprehension wasn't a big deal. I'm 28 now and currently in school. While I still understand the information, I feel like it takes me longer to comprehend a passage, it's harder to recall something I've tried to memorize. I'll have an idea and then a minute later I won't remember what that idea was after getting distracted.

I'm not saying fat=stupid, obviously that isn't true. But I don't know, it feel like my own thought processes have slowed down so much and it seems like the more weight I gain, the slower my mind is getting.

Am I the only one?
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Old 08-11-2013, 12:16 AM   #2
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When I am losing weight, I always feel the most engaged academically and work-wise. But when I am/was in maintenance, I find that my intellectual pursuits kinda plateau.

When I regained the weight, I was at my least engaged academically.

But I was overweight pretty much my entire high school and middle school years, and I was very successful academically.

In short, when you compare someone who's been thin all their life and someone who's been big all their life, I don't think you'll find much cognitive differences. When you compare someone who is getting healthier and someone is getting less healthy, then you'll see a significant cognitive difference.

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Old 08-11-2013, 12:24 AM   #3
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Well, I was around 320 pounds in this past spring semester of college and I made the dean's list with a 3.75 GPA, if that helps lol.
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Old 08-11-2013, 12:24 AM   #4
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meme, that's exactly what I have noticed about myself. when I was younger, with a normal BMI, I excelled academically but the more weight I piled on, the more I had to struggle to stay at the top and eventually, it got to a point where I stopped caring as much about my performance academically and ambition-wise.

Which lead me to wonder: is my obesity REALLY affecting my cognitive abilities? Or is it some form of mild depression that comes along with being overweight for some people?
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Old 08-11-2013, 12:27 AM   #5
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Slush, I haven't made the dean's list in quite a while but I still do well enough in my classes. It just feels like it takes more effort than it used to, if that makes sense. :/
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Old 08-11-2013, 12:35 AM   #6
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meme, that's exactly what I have noticed about myself. when I was younger, with a normal BMI, I excelled academically but the more weight I piled on, the more I had to struggle to stay at the top and eventually, it got to a point where I stopped caring as much about my performance academically and ambition-wise.

Which lead me to wonder: is my obesity REALLY affecting my cognitive abilities? Or is it some form of mild depression that comes along with being overweight for some people?
I definitely believe it is a confidence, self esteem thing. As you get bigger, friendships start fading, people start making comments and you felt inferior. If someone or something makes you feel bad about yourself, you're not going to believe that you have what it takes to be successful in anything.

I have always been a confident person, even at 260 pounds (the weight I was when I was in high school). I got sick two years ago and put on more weight and the fact that the 15 freaking doctors I've seen can't figure out what is wrong really killed my self esteem. I felt like a useless, worthless failure.

I don't feel that way anymore, thanks to amazingly supportive mother and God, but it takes time getting back to that place. It's not about how badly you want it, it's about believing you can do it and therefor, getting it done.


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Slush, I haven't made the dean's list in quite a while but I still do well enough in my classes. It just feels like it takes more effort than it used to, if that makes sense. :/
I'm sure you have a list of accomplishments, so if it helps, write them down and look them over once a day. By remembering what you have already done (even if it's learning how to make a new meal, because I can't cook to save my life so that would be a huge accomplishment for me, lol) it'll remind you that you can do anything. Being in college is already a huge accomplishment, reguardless of your grades. A lot of people don't go to college, or think they wouldn't be able to do it. You're doing it my friend.
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Old 08-11-2013, 12:45 AM   #7
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Slush, those are some really good ideas I've developed a "why bother" attitude about myself I think. Like, "I'm pretty overweight, what's the point in wearing something nice and wearing makeup, sweatpants are good enough." Maybe that has extended over to my academic performance, too.
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Old 08-11-2013, 12:49 AM   #8
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It very well could have, LadyPetite. I've seen it happen with myself, but just remember that you are in control of your body and your mind. Not your bad days, or those negative people, or those ugly sweat outfits that is all you can fit into right now (for me) lol.
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Old 08-11-2013, 01:17 AM   #9
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Just my opinion, but I don't think the weight affects it nearly as much as the attitude you have about yourself and your weight.

There is a young lady, about 24, overweight, that comes to where I work all the time. She is out there! One day pink hair, then blue then,well you just never know. All kinds of piercings and tattoos. If she has to take off with the folks she works for and do a Westminster, Madison Square Garden, or cross the ocean for a dog show, she tones it down. Totally professional!

She is an absolute hoot, knows and does her job, and knows, when the hair can be pink, and when she needs to tone it down, ditch the nose ring and fly right!

There is nothing wrong with her!

I really think it all boils down to how we feel about ourselves, and whether we feel we are worth it or not.

We are all worth something, and all have something to contribute and we should do the best we can with what we have!

Full steam ahead!
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Old 08-11-2013, 02:26 AM   #10
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I've been obese since kindergarten, and was always in the top of my class with very little effort, but I have no idea how being thin might have been different. My grades dropped a bit in high school (from all A's to mostly A's) and I graduated a semester early (I had enough credits to finish a full year early, but I applied too late). I finished college a semester early too.

My grade drop in high school was due to dieting. I was on prescription diet pills and barely eating, so concentration was sometimes a problem.

I have memory issues now due to fibromyalgia and other health issues. My weight could very well be responsible, but I have no proof.

I also wonder about observer bias. Do the researchers see cognitive impairment in obese subjects because it's really there or because they expect to see it. Or do obese folks appear to be impaired because hesitate to display their abilities.

In school, I often "played dumb" because teachers and other students were more likely to be cruel if I displayed too much intelligence, so I had to figure out how smart was too smart.

I read a book on speedreading in 6th or 7th grade and was trying it out during a social studies class during "quiet reading time." The teacher saw me, and said in a nasty tone, "you cannot be reading that fast."

My smart aleck self wanted to say "quiz me" because not only was I reading the material, I had already read the chapter at a normal pace the night before.

Instead my self-preservation instinct told me to play dumb, so I told the teacher "I always skim a chapter first and then go back to read it."

Even today, I suspect the teacher would have made my life miserable had she known the truth, as it was, she didn't hide her dislike for the smart kids (at least those who didn't have prominent parents). If your parents weren't doctors or lawyers, she acted like you had somehow stolen intelligence that shouldn't belong to you.

The subject of this research is interesting, but I wouldn't put too much stock in it without seeing a lot more studies.
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Old 08-11-2013, 03:53 AM   #11
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Apparently, people who are hungry develop enhanced cognitive abilities to help them seek out food (in the wild that would make sense) so maybe people who are overweight are sent into a state of reduced cognitive ability so they will be less good at finding food? It might be a defense mechanism against being overweight. I would say that I am less cognitively able the higher the weight I am.
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Old 08-11-2013, 06:02 AM   #12
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They also touched on the concept in a documentary on fasting; Eat, Fast and Live Longer. They explained that when in a fasting/hungry state your cognitive abilities increase and there is also an increase in processes that repair your cells and help guard against diseases like cancer.

It made perfect sense to me; why would our bodies waste energy if we are having no problem finding food? If our systems sense a lack of calories it's an evolutionary advantage to kick into high gear and get our brains thinking of creative ways to obtain something to eat.

Personally I know at a higher weight (or even when just not eating as well) I'm much more sluggish and mentally slow. Some of it I'm sure comes from the quality of the food I'm usually eating, but I'm not surprised if it's also influenced by my overall weight.
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Old 08-11-2013, 08:08 AM   #13
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Some of it I'm sure comes from the quality of the food I'm usually eating, but I'm not surprised if it's also influenced by my overall weight.
I am betting it is more likely this ^^^ If I am eating lots of simple carbs I get sluggish and sleepy and it is harder to concentrate. If I am eating more protein, limiting carbs and avoiding (mostly lol) simple carbs, things make sense alot faster because I can focus better.
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Old 08-11-2013, 10:55 AM   #14
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I'd like to add something about the fasting that was mentioned. It's odd but I HAVE noticed that the hungrier I am, the sharper my mind seems to be. But as soon as I eat something, I get pretty lethargic and have trouble concentrating. Now I'll admit most of what I usually eat is pretty carby - rice and bread. I never thought of myself as someone sensitive to carbs but maybe I should experiment with a lower carb diet.
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Old 08-11-2013, 11:48 AM   #15
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This is an interesting subject, and one I'd like to see more results of studies on.

I'd be particularly interested in seeing how certain foods that overweight people tend to eat more of, such as sugar, effect the brain.
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