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Weighing in on
By Clarence C. Picard
reg Privitera, Ph.D., has been a busy
man. In the last 12 months, the
health psychologist and St. Bona-
venture professor has published six
peer-reviewed articles, a 736-page textbook, a
504-page study guide and presented at the
major conference for psychology teaching,
with more to come.
In addition to his success in academic cir-
cles, Privitera's work on the psychology of
eating has been a hit in the popular media,
with interviews conducted by
Buffalo's WGRZ-TV, Men's
Health, Men's Fitness
Prevention magazines. When
contemplating the reasons for
his recent popularity, Privitera
starts with a quote from Emily
Dickinson: The mere sense of living
is joy enough.
"The idea is that the mere sense of
living involves food, and you can't
have that anywhere in the world
without considering food," said Privitera. "When
you consider 4 percent of our lives is spent eating
-- and that's not including the time we are preparing
food, thinking about food, dreaming about food -- it's all
about food."
Our natural obsession with food comes in direct conflict with the
ever-expanding industry of health and weight loss. People are
spending more and more time considering their diet and nutrition,
but the results aren't matching the industry's growth. The obesity
rate has tripled nationally, and has doubled amongst preschoolers
since 1980.
That is where health psychology comes into play. Privitera
believes that for people to change the way they eat, they need to
understand how they think about food.
"When I was younger, no matter what I ate I couldn't gain a
pound, until I hit 25 and started gaining weight," recalled
Privitera. "I realized my problem was that I had fallen in love with
bad foods, but I couldn't just stop eating them.
"We know a ton about health, so why aren't we solving this
Global obesity
problem? To me, the answer is psychology. We aren't
addressing how to get people to shift their diets. I
think a big part of it is that you have to enjoy eating
Since realizing that he couldn't change his diet with
the flick of a switch, Privitera has focused his research
on the idea of, "how do we get people to like healthier
foods, and how do we increase the likelihood that peo-
ple will eat healthy?"
"When I first started to shift my attention in this direc-
tion, I was shocked how little people focused on this,"
said Privitera. "But now I joke that all I did was move a
bowl of fruit and everyone wants to talk to me."
He's not kidding. Along with 2012 psychology gradu-