Anxious and depressed about your weight?

There are many reasons why some of us put on weight more easily than others. If you are reading this because you are miserable about your own weight and perhaps envious or frustrated by others who seem to get away with eating what they want, then hopefully this article will explain some of the possible influences on weight.

Let's look at our environment first:

Our culture tends to communicate with food - we use it to celebrate, comfort ourselves, for enjoyment, to treat ourselves on holiday etc… the overall effect is that we take in more energy than we need. If this happens too much, we will put on weight.

What role does food play in your life? If you are not sure, keep a diary for a week and record everything you eat, when you eat it and maybe why you are eating at this time too.

We don't move around as much as previous generations. If you don’t do enough physical activity to burn what your body takes in each day, this will be converted to fat. Physical activity doesn’t necessarily mean specific exercise classes or going to the gym, it means walking instead of driving, taking the stairs instead of the lift, getting up to change channels on the TV instead of using a remote, generally moving more etc.

Can you think of ways of becoming more active in your daily life?

Eating in front of the TV creates a “trance-like” state that means you are likely to eat more than you need and snack more.

How does eating take place in your household? If you eat in front of the TV, the whole family as well as you may benefit greatly from sitting around a table together to eat. Experiments show that people who sit at a table eat less than those in front of the TV.

There are then internal factors to do with our personal biology that also affect body size:

Fat cells for example. You may not realise that people vary in the number of fat cells that they have, and this can be influenced by your mother’s diet during pregnancy and how you were fed as a child. Puberty also exerts an effect. You may be someone with a high number of fat cells which will potentially increase your body size more than a person with fewer fat cells.

Do you notice any patterns regarding weight in your family?  Do you compare what you eat with others who appear slimmer?

Individual weight range explains how the body is able to regulate weight within a set range for each person; if you overeat on holiday for example, this means that over time your weight will return to your usual range when you return home and normalise your eating again. Unfortunately, this also contributes to the reason why 97% of people who lose weight on a diet also end up putting it all back on after the diet ends and they resume more normalised eating patterns.

Do you ever diet to try and lose weight? Do you put the weight back on again over time?

Energy burning happens in our bodies all the time, with 60-70% being used for vital processes like breathing and blood circulation that keep us alive. This is called Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). Imagine how difficult it is for the body to function when we don’t feed it? Digestion and absorption of food take about 10% of our daily energy expenditure; this is called the thermic effect of food. We also burn energy with physical activity and this varies greatly from person to person. 

Activity can increase how much energy your body burns, so if you are concerned about your weight, make sure you move around during the day where you can. For example, chose stairs over an elevator, walk instead of driving, make sure you take a break at lunchtime if you are desk-bound in a job etc… 

Do fat people have a slow metabolism?

Not necessarily, in fact someone carrying more fat is also likely to have more muscle to support this extra weight, so it is likely that they have a good metabolism. We do know from research that “dieting” will reduce metabolic rate though, so if you are someone who likes to diet, you might want to consider how your restriction of calories might be reducing your body’s energy-burning capacity. Although RMR may be influenced by your genes, age, gender and height, sensible dieting might choose foods that minimise muscle loss with activities that boost it. 


Overall, research shows that "happiness" can greatly influence weight management, because if you feel happier then you become more able to manage your diet and sustain weight loss. So whilst you are planning your next attempt at cutting some calories, you may consider the benefit of focusing your attention away from your body size and onto your mind and mood instead. Weight issues are complex and as there is no known way to guarantee weight loss, what have you got to lose by improving how you “feel” as the person you are in the world? Can you imagine feeling happier than you are right now and how this might influence your levels of motivation in losing and sustaining weight? 

Perhaps as a happier person you would make some life changes… counselling coaching can support you in doing this if you don’t think you can do it alone. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Brighton, East Sussex, BN3 3WG
Written by Claire Sainsbury
Brighton, East Sussex, BN3 3WG

Claire Sainsbury is an integrative counsellor & coach with a special interest in helping people change unhealthy life habits to promote a better quality of living.

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