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The following article was published in Your Health Magazine. Our mission is to empower people to live healthier.
Anne M. Rensberger, LICSW
Mental Well-Being and Obesity

Mental Well-Being and Obesity

As someone with a history of obesity I know what it is like. Being fat can influence mental well-being and mental health issues can contribute to obesity.

If you are overweight, have other people driven you nuts? From teasing to abuse, the overweight person is a target. The chronically obese are subjeced to demeaning behavior or comments from others. We have been viewed as awkward, ugly, dumb, jolly, weak-willed, and undesirable. That mistreatment can shape a psychological mindset and response that may have to be altered to attain a reasonable weight.

If you have ever been diagnosed with a serious mental health condition, you may very well have been given medicine that helps the condition but to your dismay also caused you to gain weight.

Do you use food to meet certain psychological needs and avoid certain unpleasant feelings? Space out while eating? It is not just fat people who are guilty of this. Who among us haven't downed a container of ice cream or way too much pizza at the end of a harrowing day?

Then there is fat dependency. There can be unconscious and semi-conscious advantages to being fat. The psychological benefits of being obese can be understood when, as an adult, people who had been abused sexually as a child surrounds themselves with a cloak of fat to ward off further attacks. Being obese also protects people from taking on certain challenges or explains away certain disappointments, as a person can blame his fat for his unwillingness to try new things or for his failures. Also being heavy can be a part of your uniqueness, what you are known for, and it may be difficult to part with that identity.

Are you a perfectionist? When on a diet, do you equate eating one piece of chocolate with eating a whole cake, or use one bad weekend as cause to give up a diet entirely and view yourself as a failure? We believe others achieve success with a minimum of effort yet view our own efforts as both unending and inadequate. We desperately fear mistakes and disapproval.

We also favor the use of denial, especially in statements of glorification that are counterproductive to losing weight. “It's not so bad to be fat”, “I'll just have a little bite” or “We had so much fun when we got together and pigged out” are actually counter to what our better self tells us.

Many of us have experienced some of these conditions, others none at all. But in either case if weight is an issue for you it is wise to examine your own psychology with food and weight.

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