I wholeheartedly believe that media and society’s pressure on us are a big part of why so many people are overweight, but obviously that’s not the whole reason and I’m not going to address that here. Neither am I going to address the scientific causes either.
What I want to address is the deep reasons, the ones that stick with us no matter where we go, no matter what we do. They’re always there at the back of our mind… Emotions! We all know these pesky feelings we experience can drive us to food for comfort, or lead us to eating more than we should. The good news is there is a way to make progress in not allowing them to control us. I’m not a psychologist, but read on to find out what I have found to work for me.
- Stress: This is a big one! We deal with so much in our daily lives that we feel stressed and overwhelmed.
- Sadness: We all feel it to some degree, on a regular basis.
- Loneliness: Even those of us who don’t want a lot of face-to-face human interaction crave some level of companionship!
- Hopelessness: Sometimes we feel that no matter what we do, we can’t do anything right or make any progress.
- Anger: I know I’ve sometimes felt so angry, that once that anger dissipated, I felt so hungry I could eat the whole house.
- Guilt: Feeling guilty can lead us to food or drink to drown that guilt.
- Fear: We can sometimes find food soothing when we’re afraid as well.
Sometimes we feel so taken over by these feelings that we want to do anything to escape them… including turning to food in a misguided attempt to release ourselves from the feeling. We might feel reprieve but it is always temporary. Food does not solve our problems. Food cannot make us feel better long-term. It’s a hard lesson to learn, and an even harder lesson to follow through with by changing our self-soothing methods.
Here I would like to share with you why I am overweight, or at least part of the reason why since there are almost always multiple layers. The story goes like this… at age five, my mom and father got a divorce. Apparently I was pretty attached to him, although I don’t really remember him too much beyond a memory here and there. I was always on the smaller side before that but shortly after we left him and moved a few states away, I started gaining weight. I spent the rest of my childhood pleasantly “chubby.” Once I hit the puberty years, probably around age eleven and after yet another move, I started gaining more weight and faster. By the time I was twelve I weighed in at 180 pounds.
I didn’t think much of my weight beyond the fact that I was bigger than most of my peers… that is until I entered junior high. There I began to be a bit self-conscious of my weight and looks in general. The summer between junior high and high school, my stepdad had a stroke which caused all kinds of upheaval in our lives. We had to move and adjust, individually and as a family. That coupled with the drastic change of schooling, and I gained more weight. I ended up switching to a home school program with a friend when she brought it up, and that was the best decision for me. About a year and a half after his stroke, my mom lost 90% of her hearing and for a while couldn’t get any hearing aids. As anyone could imagine, this was another adjustment and tough on all of us.
At sixteen, when my mom and I joined a gym, I weighed 270 pounds. We went for a year and I lost 35 pounds without changing my diet. I found my love of exercise at that gym. Then we moved further away from that gym and I could no longer go when the year contract was over. I walked a lot after that but slowly gained the weight back as well as a little extra. A few years after that I started a weight loss journey all on my own at 289. That time I lost 76 pounds. This journey ended within eight months due to being in the hospital and having surgery to remove my gallbladder, then losing my first apartment and moving across the country. Once again, I gained all the weight back and then some.
Add in a few half-hearted attempts to lose weight in between… and a lot of stress here and there, as is the way with life, and by the time I started my current (and final!) weight loss journey, I was tipping the scales at 309 pounds. I didn’t start out thinking I wanted to lose 100+ pounds, but after I saw the weight on the scales and started learning about myself and weight loss even more than I already knew, I was in it for the long-haul. Here I am 16 months later, 120 pounds lighter than when I began and at a weight I haven’t seen since the beginning of my teens, and I still have mental and emotional issues I’m chipping away at on a regular basis. I know it will be a continuous process for me, and I might always desire to turn to food for comfort from these emotions, but I will not give in or give up.
You can do it for yourself too! Don’t let those emotions stand in your way. I know it’s easier said than done, but there is a way to retrain your brain to find other things to comfort you. Some of the ways I do this for myself: take a walk, call my sister and vent to her or talk things through, get a workout in, listen to my favorite or upbeat music, watch funny/entertaining shows, read some good books, or write it out. There are so many other ways as well! Find a way that makes you feel good, but that also helps you overcome those bad feelings. Work through them, don’t shy away from them. Sometimes we need a breather though and taking a break to give your mind a chance to neutralize can help tremendously in allowing you to think more clearly and find a solution.