Why can’t I lose weight? - The psychology of overeating
Your eating habits are a projection of your attitude to life, your state of mind and your emotional needs. It is very common to feel hunger when you’re actually feeling ignored, unloved, unwanted or neurotic but you must know that, in these cases, your desire for food is not rooted in unsatisfied physical needs. Other reasons for overeating might be boredom, heart ache, stress, frustration or a feeling of emptiness inside.
Consuming food makes you feel satisfied for a short period if time: people simply don’t feel angry, frustrated, scared, disappointed, anxious or depressed while eating. The time you spend eating your food is a time of peace - eating makes you feel at peace with the whole world and, most importantly, with yourself.
One of our most important function as a newborn is consuming food. A newborn associates feeding time with cuddles and closeness, and the satisfaction they get from being full makes them feel comfortable and loved. That is why experts recommend mothers breastfeed on demand. Being fed means being taken care of and loved.
Studies have shown that a mother’s behavior can play a crucial role when it comes to emotional overeating: if a mom constantly offers food to her baby whenever the baby cries or displays signs of discomfort, the baby might fail to learn what hunger is and what signs the body gives when feeling hungry. It also leaves the mother very frustrated for she measures her child’s level of comfort in the amount of food they had consumed. Early mother-child relationships are often listed as causes of overeating or suffering from any other eating disorder, especially if a mother is very dominant or overly attached.
Overweight people tend to feel like those extra pounds are some kind of mask or an uncomfortable costume that contains all of their insecurities. They often feel weighed down or overburdened in life and might end up gaining even more weight to protect themselves from all the difficulties they face in life. Their problems might be further aggravated by feeling hurt or cast out when, in fact, what they really need is acceptance and unconditional love from other people. Positive reinforcement and success can also help with feeling less alone. Do not be deceived by false self-confidence - overweight people tend to project an image of a happy, carefree person in order to protect themselves.
Projecting a false image of self-love and acceptance might be encouraged by all those photos on social media showing plus size girls running around on the beach in tiny bikinis making them think “She looks so happy and carefree with her shiny hair and perfect teeth - I can look pretty too, even if I have a bit of extra weight on me”. Though social media can send the message that being overweight cannot stand in the way of your happiness, people often use those extra pounds to shield themselves from the world.
In addition to all those risk factors, being overweight is not only unhealthy in a physical sense. It’s a message that needs to be decoded. Do sentences like “You can’t leave the table until you’re plate is empty” or “If you don’t eat it, I’ll shove it down your throat” sound familiar? An overweight person might carry the weight of a parent’s unhealthy relationship to food or a frustrated mother’s way of taking care of her child… Feeling hungry all the time might actually mean you’re hungry for love, acceptance and attention. There’s nothing wrong with wanting more but eating more is definitely not the answer. The peace and comfort eating brings is only temporary: chewing, swallowing or binge eating does not have the power to solve conflicts, these things only make you forget about your problems for a little while. We’ve all seen beautiful women put on more and more weight as they try to manage a toxic relationship but running from your problems won’t solve them.
So what can you do? If you’re a person who finds that running to the fridge and eating everything in sight is easier than facing your problems, you must know that hiding from your problems is a decision - so is facing them. You don’t need to hide behind your mask any more, you’re strong enough to stop. If you’re struggling with emotional overeating, losing weight will not make you happier because you’ll look thinner - losing weight is about facing your problems and learning to deal with difficulties in life and losing weight is the result of taking care of yourself emotionally and mentally. It’s about both your mental and physical health. Think about how much healthier, fitter and happier you could be if you overcame your fear of facing your problems and lost those extra pounds as a result. Your health and happiness are worth it.
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