Psychological factors that shape & maintain obesity
From working with clients struggling with obesity and weight issues since 2005, we understand that psychological factors play a huge part in how eating becomes disordered, weight increases and the complex web of obesity becomes maintained.
When you struggle with mental health, negative thinking, poor emotional management and low self-worth can develop into conditions like anxiety, depression or even an eating disorder. This often leads to emotional overeating, poor self-care and little interest in regular exercise.
Here are some psychological factors that maintain obesity:
Cognitive-behavioural strategies (CBT) can be very effective in helping you calm your eating, improve mood and give you a sense of feeling more in control.
Using a person-centred approach, CBT can help you develop skills to improve your emotional agility, so you can learn to manage and soothe emotions without food.
For some people this healthier mindset can drive a change in eating and exercise behaviour, resulting in healthy and steady weight loss.
Families have their own rituals, behaviour patterns, beliefs and culture around eating. As children we consume this way of acting around food – it becomes our unconscious blueprint of how to be in relationship with food, eating, weight and meal times.
Some of these family imprints will be helpful and guiding, but for many obese individuals they are toxic and damaging. In the present day, the obese individual will be acting out these behaviours automatically, as they are so habitual.
They feel trapped and unable to change what is so entrenched in their make-up. With this negative ‘eating template’ navigating the social minefield of eating and drinking in life can feel overwhelming. Often it is easier to stay eating the way they have always done.
Our earliest experiences of our body stay with us, and become the foundation blocks of how we see ourselves in the world.
Name calling by parents, bullying by vicious kids at school and moments where a child feels humiliated and embarrassed about their size all feed into an unhealthy and destructive body image.
Core beliefs about being fat, ugly and unattractive permeate and cut through time. In the present day, an obese individual will believe they are unlovable and unattractive because of how they look.
Obesity can become a label that defines and confirms self-identity, and for some provides protection and a barrier from relationships and the world.
Losing weight challenges this, and even though an obese person may have a huge list of positive reasons for losing weight, deeper forces may be obstructing the thing they want the most.
When parents are busy with work, or they lack adequate parenting skills, or they struggle to cope with little money and a large family, the result can often feel like neglect to a child. They are not seen or heard, their emotional difficulties are not understood and they are left with a psychological hunger for attention.
Their emptiness for love, recognition and acceptance is filled with food. This hurt and rejection is often defended against with a need to please others and to be perfect. This is how a child will attempt to get their needs met, and maintain a relationship with their caregivers.
In the present day, an obese individual may be an overachiever who is a perfectionist at work and puts others’ needs before their own. Their needs are still not met, and food continues to fill the emptiness they feel within.
When we are faced with a traumatic event, the initial blast of shock is compounded with a tsunami of chaotic emotions. Death, rape, an accident, redundancy or health deterioration are life events which destabilise us. Life has thrown us a swerve ball that knocks us off our feet.
If we already use food as comfort, then in moments of trauma and shock we can easily lean on a known mechanism that makes us feel better.
An obese individual may have been unable to move through a healthy and normal process of grief. The longer they suppress their feelings, the more it feels as if an avalanche of emotions will engulf them if they start to work through things.
Food becomes a distractor, and a soother, often resulting in feelings of guilt and shame about eating, leaving the traumatic experienced unresolved.
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Psychological treatment for obesity
The sections above describe some of the most common psychological factors that shape weight issues for our obese clients. It is essential to understand how and why you struggle with eating and your weight in the present day, and this comes from investigating what happened to you in the past.
With this awareness and understanding, we can support you in changing and updating the old patterns that are keeping you rooted in your weight dysfunction. Every obese individual is different, and you will have your own unique story that explains your struggle with food. For this reason the treatment and support we offer must be tailored to address your individual needs.
We have developed different psychological and nutritional services to support you in healing your mind and body. By addressing your nutrition, lifestyle and mindset, we can help you reach optimal wellness and develop a healthy relationship with food, eating and body image.
Please Book A Call with our experienced assessment team who will explain how our services can help you. Or complete the form below, and we will be in touch to arrange a convenient time to speak with you.
Learn more about Psychological Factors in Obesity
Here are some articles and blogs about psychological factors in obesity