Ep. 20: Dr. Jessica Breland — Latest Findings on the Obesity Epidemic Among US Veterans

Recent research has identified an epidemic of obesity among US veterans. Dr. Jessica Breland has been at the forefront of this research, having recently published data on the prevalence of overweight (nearly 80%) and obesity (~40%)  among nearly 5 million patients in the Veterans Health Administration. In this week’s episode I explored this and other findings from Jessica’s research. Among the topics we discussed were:

  • The VHA services available to address the obesity epidemic
  • Unique challenges that women in the military often face
  • Aspects of military culture that may play into disordered eating
  • Why we often seek comfort through eating
  • How to let emotional overeating urges pass
  • The link between military sexual trauma and eating disorders

We also talked about Jessica’s efforts to share her research findings through social media, which presents advantages and potential risks. Topics we covered include:

  • Why many researchers seem reluctant to use social media professionally
  • The double-edged sword of researchers’ having greater control over how they present their findings to the public
  • The use of social media and phone apps to collect research data
  • Jessica’s development of a primer for academics who want to use broadcast their research findings through social media
  • The possibility that tenure and promotion could one day depend on generating a social media following

I know Jessica from many years ago when she was a senior at Penn and I was a graduate student, and I oversaw her senior thesis project. The research we did together resulted in several publications that Jessica and I co-authored with others, like this one.

Jessica Y. Breland, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and Core Investigator at the Center for Innovation to Implementation at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, as well as a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine. She currently has a VA Career Development Award focused on engaging veterans in behavioral health services through an online self-help tool. Jessica received her PhD in psychology from Rutgers University and completed her clinical internship at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX.

You can find Jessica online at the Stanford University website, as well as on Twitter. Google Scholar has links to her many research publications.

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