What Stands Between You And Healthy Eating: 3 Underlying Causes Of Obesity
Introducing healthy changes to your diet might be the single best decision you’ll ever make for your long-term health.
According to the World Health Organisation a bigger part of the world’s population lives in countries where obesity is more of a health issue than underweight. Other grim statistics reinforce the notion that obesity is becoming an epidemic not only in wealthy countries but in developing ones as well.
Because obesity is preventable the incentive to do our best to stop the epidemic is even stronger. Apart from the traditional approaches like a healthy diet and exercise, there are also clinical trials looking into ways to deal with the issue in an even more efficient way.
To be exact, a quick search on FindMeCure comes up with 1437 clinical trials studying treatments, observing behavior to gain understanding or assessing new methods of screening.
Whether you give one of them a chance or not is up to you. But whatever you choose, give yourself a chance. Give yourself the chance to live your best life in a healthy, fit body that can carry your vibrant self through every new adventure you set your mind on.
To beat obesity you have to understand it first. If it was as easy as simply going on a diet relapse rates wouldn’t be so high. Though many people who struggle with obesity successfully lose weight, maintaining their new healthy weight presents the bigger challenge.
But why is that and what are the deeper reasons behind weight issues? And what can we do on an individual level to fix what’s broken and prevent what’s not from breaking?
Well, for one, we can’t solve a complex multifaceted issue with a single-minded approach addressing only one layer of the problem. Obesity is the result of genetics and unhealthy lifestyle habits as much as it’s a visible representation of a person’s psychological state.
A study on weight maintenance in obesity suggests that there are some significant psycho-emotional differences between those who relapse and those who maintain their weight. If healthy weight is not simply a matter of balanced diet and physical activity, then what are the psychological factors that play a role?
A survey conducted in the U.S. reveals the relation between ‘adverse childhood events’ and unhealthy eating behaviors. Researchers are becoming increasingly interested in the many ways childhood trauma manifests itself through destructive behaviors in adulthood like addictions, binge eating, food restriction, purging.
More specifically, it’s physical and sexual abuse in childhood that can predict obesity in adulthood. Unconsciously, the extra body weight becomes a kind of a shield for survivors of sexual trauma or physical abuse.
It serves to protect them from whatever happened to them as children. It either desexualises them in order to prevent another assault or it provides a sort of a buffer, a protective layer between them and the outside world.
In cases like these, healthy eating is nothing more than a band-aid, a temporary fix to a much deeper issue that remains unaddressed.
Stuffing down emotions
Trauma is not limited to physical and sexual abuse, but can have an emotional dimension to it as well. Some ‘adverse childhood events’ are not as overt as being the victim of assault. Living in a generally dysfunctional and unhappy environment can in and of itself lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms when dealing with emotions in adulthood.
Continuous emotional neglect, your emotions being frequently invalidated by authority figures (“You shouldn’t feel like this”, “There’s no reason to be sad”, “Stop crying over nothing”, etc.) along with an emotionally abusive relationship between the adults at home can lead to addictions like smoking, and more relevant to our topic – binge eating.
Often attributed to ‘boredom’, eating excessive amounts of food is indeed related to a lower level of happiness and can be sometimes indicative of depression.
So, before you go on another diet, assess your level of general satisfaction. Are you happy with your career, social life, romantic relationships? Do you feel fulfilled and accomplished?
What ‘boredom’ often stands for is a feeling of a lack of meaning in life. And that’s something food can’t give you.
The black and white thinking
It’s a form of perfectionism observed in people who quickly relapse after losing weight. It’s that ‘either, or’ thinking that keeps a lot of us from achieving a healthy balance.
“If I eat that cookie I might as well eat the whole package since I’ve already made an unhealthy eating choice.” Does that sound familiar? Either you eat ‘clean’ all day every day, or you have a whole bag of chips – that’s black and white thinking.
It keeps you from maintaining your weight by tricking you into thinking that if you’re not perfect at adhering to a certain standard of eating you might as well ditch it altogether.
The key to losing weight and keeping that weight off, however, is not perfection but moderation. Have you heard the saying that ‘done is better than perfect’? The same principle applies here. By introducing small healthy changes to your eating habits you break out of your old patterns and eventually manage to turn healthy eating into a lifestyle rather than a temporary fix.
Another mistake perfectionists make when trying to lose or maintain weight is equating their worth with their appearance. But a lot of time when it comes to weight ‘healthy’ doesn’t mean ‘model-like’. Reaching for some unachievable standard can kill your motivation completely and send you spiraling down.
When it comes to progress, remember that two steps forward and one step back is better than staying where you are.
If you want to help researchers gain even more insight into obesity or you’ve already tried everything and need some support in order to reach your goal healthy weight, you can join a clinical trial. There is no magical pill but better methods of treatment are possible and within reach.