The Weighting Game

Sometimes there are deeper psychological issues that impact on our weight and attitude towards food.

We know there are growing obesity problems in the UK and the media obsession, and now backlash, on size zero models is well documented. Anorexia and Bulimia are understood, to an extent, but many other people who do not fit into these categories have psychological issues with food and weight.

Most people are probably aware of what they need to do to lose weight – eat less and exercise more. Being overweight is a choice. It’s easy to make excuses: ‘I don’t have time to exercise’, ‘I just can’t do without chocolate’, ‘I hate the gym’, ‘I just find myself finishing up the kid’s leftovers’. These are all passive statements and do not help us to lose weight or achieve what we want to achieve. We are each responsible for how we choose to live our lives and the weight that we are. Being overweight is no accident; a choice has been made – even if that choice is to do nothing.

Instead of these passive statements, try saying: ‘I choose to be overweight, I choose not to exercise and I choose to eat too much and the wrong things!’ This may be uncomfortable to say but when we really acknowledge that our weight is our choice we can empower ourselves to make different choices.

It can be that simple. Often, of course, it’s not simple because of what is going on at a psychological level. Usually we are not aware of our psychological reasons for being overweight, as this is stored in our unconscious. However there are ways that we can bring that unconscious process into our conscious awareness – allowing us to address the issues. This can be done through counselling and psychotherapy or other methods and again is ‘our’ choice.

When thinking about weight issues from a psychological perspective there are two main categories to think about – size and eating.

Sometimes people have an investment in being overweight. This can be for many different reasons. It might be that there is some resistance with intimacy (sexual, psychological or emotional) and being overweight is a way of keeping the world at arms’ length.

It may be that their identity is wrapped up in being the ‘larger then life’ jolly character. Unconsciously they may worry that if they lost weight they would lose their identity. Sometimes it can be that people have low self-esteem and being overweight gives them a focus for their self-dislike. They might be defending against the realisation that it is themselves that they do not like. There are many other possibilities.

The other issue is about a person’s relationship with food. The biological reason for eating is to sustain us, but eating nowadays has gone far beyond that. Often people have an unhealthy relationship with food. Often we have lost the ability to know when we are hungry or when we are full. In many households we are encourages to ‘clear our plate’ rather then tune into our own system to tell us when we are full.

Some people turn to food when they are stressed or depressed. When we celebrate it often involves food. Our social life can revolve around food and eating. Sometimes people use food as a way of controlling or affecting their mood. Food is used to meet many needs other then hunger.

When we are stressed what we need is to relax, take time out, and have some space – instead people can sometimes distract themselves by eating. Food may be used to relieve boredom. We all need stimulation in our lives and this can be a way in which we learn to get it. If you want to lose weight consider how you get your stimulation needs met – is it through food? If so, look for alternatives. Each of us is unique and will have our own ways of potentially using food in an unhealthy way.

Of course, losing weight can be a challenge. We all know the practical solution but we can often sabotage what we really want because of what is going on at a psychological level. An important step is to take responsibility for ourselves and to acknowledge this is a ‘choice’ that we are making. We are, however, capable of making new, better choices. By finding ways of bringing our unconscious process into our consciousness we give ourselves the opportunity to address the issue and therefore succeed in our goals.

By Leilani Mitchell

These are my random ramblings today; tomorrow I might change my mind.

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