In this post, I want to discuss the psychological reasons of why many people can’t manage to lose weight. It is self-evident why people become overweight. Oral stage traumas make us eat to self-medicate and self-soothe and we turn to food when we cannot deal with our own emotions in any other way. Of course, there is genetic predisposition but it loses much of its power in the face of severe psychological trauma.
However, there are also people who try to lose weight and it just doesn’t happen. When you discover that a significant (and even a dramatic) increase in physical activity coupled with a very healthy diet doesn’t produce any difference in your weight, it is time to look at the psychological issues causing this.
First of all, let me say that my definition of obesity is not based on any medical charts but rather on whether weight starts making some simple physical activities harder. If tying shoelaces, putting on underwear, bending, running, etc. becomes an activity you notice and have to make efforts to complete because of the weight, there is a problem. This post is not addressed to those who weigh 5 or 25 lbs over what some chart says they should. I’m talking about the really significant problems of those who are 50, 100, 150 lbs overweight. I also need to mention that it bores me to tears to hear the delusional “you can be healthier at 350 lbs than some people are at 150 lbs” and “being 100 lbs overweight has no impact on my health.” There are many places online where one can indulge this need but my blog is not one.
Now, let’s look at the psychological reasons that compel us to hang on to our obesity. Obesity is a very striking form of self-manifestation because it is so visible. We are obviously trying to tell people something with our extra weight (again, this is not about the 10 lbs you think you are overweight. Nobody is noticing them except your inner self-hater.) At the same time, many simple tasks become harder than they would be if we weren’t obese. Even something as trivial as picking something from the ground is very different at 250 lbs than it is at 150.
The psychological goal of this way of existence and self-manifestation is attracting attention to our problems. An obese person is trying to tell the world, “My life is very hard, and nobody knows just how much.” Do you get a feeling that nobody really understands how difficult things are for you, how overwhelmed you are, how hard it is to do everything you have to do, how many responsibilities you have to shoulder? I get this feeling a lot. And it doesn’t have to be based on any “facts.” This is how I feel, and for me, my psychic truth is the only valid reality.
This is why exercising “willpower” to lose weight will only be counterproductive (unless we are talking about a seriously masochistic personality). It will only make you feel like your life has become even harder and might actually lead to an even greater weight gain.
So what is the solution? First of all, as always, we need to trace the origins of this feeling. When did you first get the feeling that you weren’t being heard or that you were dismissed whenever you felt like sharing your problems? Without understanding what caused this feeling to appear, the problem will not be solved.
The next step is to ask yourself, “What should happen to make me feel that I am being heard and that people are recognizing that life is hard for me?” When you get your answer, start talking to the people who surround you. Tell them, “Look, this is how I feel. This is the reaction I need to get from you. Please give it to me in the form I need to get it.”
I’m obviously not suggesting showing up in the Dean’s office with this request. This is something that we need to address to the people in our inner circle who, I am sure, will be happy to give us the recognition we need if we help them see how much we need it. It is very important to tell them from the outset that responding to us with, “Yes, I know exactly how you feel because I also feel totally overwhelmed” will be extremely counterproductive. Tell them that the 2 hours the conversation will last absolutely have to be only about you and the recognition of your hardship.
If there are no people in your life who are healthy and intelligent enough to assist in this exercise, the next best thing is to write. You will not get the crucial recognition of your hardship from others but at least you will get yourself to face it. Remember that there is no “objective” criterion of hardship. If you feel that things are overwhelming, then they are. You don’t need to justify it or, God forbid, measure your problems against somebody else’s. Anybody who tells you, “What are you complaining about, look at the really serious issues XYZ are facing” is your sworn enemy in this situation.