Obesity - why it is not all your fault

Following a healthy diet and taking regular exercise is important for good health.

January 12th-19th 2015 has been National Obesity Awareness Week. Most awareness weeks are about empowering individuals to be themselves, perhaps you do not feel empowered this week?

The social media has been providing messages advocating ways to change; if you are obese here is how you can change your eating to be healthy, and here is how to increase your exercise. These are not always useful messages, and they imply someone with weight issues is both lazy and greedy - this is not usually the case.

If you have looked for counselling because you feel your weight or your eating is contributing to your unhappiness please read more.

If you eat more energy (calories) than your body needs you will gain weight. However this will provide you with information to empower you to know it is not all your fault.

It is likely you have heard of ‘emotional eating’, this is eating to satisfy an emotion rather your hunger. It may sound an odd concept and you may believe it doesn’t fit your issue. If you 'yoyo diet', or if you binge, or just lose control with food you may be eating emotionally.

Here are just two of the reasons why individuals’ emotional hunger overrides their bodies physiological hunger and feeling of fullness.

  • As a young child, up to the age of 3 or 4 years you may have been persuaded to ‘finish what’s on your plate’ even when you had stopped eating. You had stopped when your body was full. Adults do not like waste, and parents want to be assured their children have plenty of food, it helps them grow. Children like to please their parents, it provides emotional security. So unconsciously you began to learn that over-riding your natural feeling of fullness was less important than pleasing your mum or dad. Growing older this might have led to 3 issues:

                I.        You became less attuned to knowing when you were ‘full’.

               II.        You associate love and attention with over eating (eating beyond fullness).

              III.        You unconsciously behave as if eating gave you the reassurance that parental love did.

  • Society and the health industry have described artificially what an attractive and a ‘healthy’ body shape looks like. So when our body is naturally out of this range there is a perceived pressure to change it to be what is socially desirable. Some individuals are more susceptible to this pressure. It might be that during your teens; a period of life when we are sensitive to any type of criticism, you may have been bullied, teased about your shape, or in some way felt you didn’t fit in. Trying to change your body to be ‘normal’ is a way to cope with this ‘not fitting in’ feeling. So you start dieting. This begins a pattern that is likely to continue throughout life. It fails because initially you are trying to change a body that was actually the right size, you begin depriving yourself of foods, and these then become foods you crave so you lose the ability to control their intake rationally. You either manage to completely deny yourself of foods you like, or you eat them uncontrollably. Your diet fails.

Emotionally you find yourself in that place where you feel you don’t fit in, you start dieting again, and round and round we go. It is this weight fluctuation that is more harmful to our body than actually being slightly overweight. The messages about thin body size are everywhere, and we do not have a message reaffirming that bodies out of this range are also beautiful, and can also be healthy.

Counsellors working with eating issues will help you to learn to trust your body to be able to tell you when you are full or hungry. They will also work to identify if there are emotions you have difficulty recognising but find that by eating they get better. Because of the huge pressure to have a body that fits a certain shape and size it is common for individuals with weight concerns to also have low self-esteem. Counselling can help you feel more positive about who you are, what you look like and to learn to love yourself.

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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Brighouse, Yorkshire, HD6
Written by Emma Dunn, MBACP (Accredited) Registered Counselling & Psychotherapy
Brighouse, Yorkshire, HD6

I am a registered dietitian as well as a psychotherapist.

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