By Angela Buhri
We are whole beings. We are not our body – we have a body. However we not only have a physical body of cells, but also a ‘body’ that is made of atoms, molecules, and electrons. These parts of us are invisible but no less important. We also have a way of thinking, we have emotions, we have habits, and we have a memory. All these things affect our body, our weight and our health.
One of the reasons why diets don’t work long term is the fact that they only look at the physical body and completely ignore the rest of the human being. Such an approach can never bring you long term results.
In fact, over-eating is often only a symptom; the real CAUSE of weight gain is more likely something else. Over-eating may generally indicate a symptom which has deeper roots in a psychological issue. Unfortunately these issues are not often recognized and not taken into consideration for a lasting weight loss strategy.
No matter how many diets you follow, how determined and disciplined you are, how many sacrifices you make¼your weight will always bounce back if you don’t take care of the real, underlying causes of your weight gain. When these causes are being ignored for too long, they can add up quite a bit and make your attempts to lose weight more and more difficult with each year.
Here are nine examples of what can be common psychological causes of excess weight or obesity in women.
Example #1: After entering a romantic relationship with a partner, Bertha identified even more strongly with her role as a woman. Consequently, she developed a more feminine form. These curves have an erotic appeal. Her body reacted quite naturally to the new situation. If Bertha had recognized the reason behind the slight weight gain, and responded properly (accepted her body and enjoyed her femininity), her weight would not have increased more than a few pounds if she wouldn’t have started yo-yo dieting.
Example #2: Jessica did not have a steady boyfriend for a long time before she met her husband. Her marriage now gives her peace, quiet, safety, and security. This life gives her a sense of comfort – she is content, so to speak. Jessica’s body reacts to this peace, as she relaxes about everything a bit more. Her body gains a little weight. With that, her body signals to other men: “I am at home, I am not available anymore.”
Example #3: Erica’s self-esteem is very low. She feels that she must somehow be happy now that she has found a husband. But, in her deepest heart stirs something else – for Erica, yet unnoticed. But this part deep within herself is strong and self-confident and knows that there is no reason for those feelings of inferiority. Yet because she has learned as a child that she was only loved when she was cute and well behaved, now something starts to rebel in her. What if her husband just loved her too because she’s pretty, nice and “low maintenance”? So now, she needs to (unconsciously, because she is not aware of all this), find out. By gaining weight, she is suddenly not so cute and attractive anymore, no longer the sweet little girl. In this way, Erica wants to “test” her husband and find out if he really loves her or just her outer appearance. Like I said, this happens on a very subconscious level.
Example #4: Even though Mary is very faithful to her husband, he tortures her again and again with jealousy. These outbreaks are very tiring to her, especially since she feels helpless and powerless against the allegations of her husband. She notices that no logical reasoning helps here. She wishes deeply that other men would not look at her that way, so her husband would have no reason to be jealous. Because she loves her husband very much, but knows no way out, her subconscious mind finds a solution. It causes the body to increase her weight and so lose its appeal. From then on, Mary feels satisfaction and peace, as she is no longer noticed by other men. That way, her husband no longer has any reason for jealousy. However, the price is very high, because he finds her new appearance no longer particularly appealing either. Well, you can’t please everyone!
Example #5: Ruth has learned as a child, that she must not say “no,” or she would be punished. At the same time, she received from her mother the message that somehow, she should fulfill her conjugal “duties” with her husband. Now that she is married, she feels the sexual desires of her husband are often too demanding. Although she enjoys the sex, she is not always ready. Since she has never learned to say “no” verbally, and she cannot stand up to her husband, her body says “no.” She builds up a protective armor, so to speak, and gains weight.
Example #6: Norma’s situation is similar to Ruth’s. She has not learned to say no. On the other hand, she enjoys her body and sexuality. Before she married, she was quite free and could choose her lovers. But now she is only “reserved” for one man. To Norma’s mind it is quite clear that she wants to be faithful, but somehow she has difficulty getting used to the idea of having only one man in her life. She doesn’t trust herself completely. Again, the obesity serves as protection from male harassment on the one hand, and as protection from her own unconscious desires and feelings on the other.
Example #7: When Isabelle met her husband, he courted her intensely at first. He spoiled her with flowers, presents, caresses and compliments, and he called her every day. Isabelle interpreted this behavior as the great love of her life, and said yes to his marriage proposal. But as soon as they were married, the flowers, gifts and other tokens of love stopped. Isabelle believes that her husband no longer loves her. She misses the regular vows of love and affection from him. What’s more, increasingly, he is tense and busy with his professional career. While day after day she is sitting at home alone, bored as a housewife, Isabelle experiences increased cravings for sweets. In this example, the eating substitutes for love. And then something else happens. Her increased physical size, too, can no longer be ignored, which means that her husband has to notice her more now – she can’t be ignored as easily anymore.
Example #8: There is another cause of obesity I discovered while working with thousands of overweight women. That doesn’t mean that it affects all overweight people, but it affects quite a few. It has to do with an imbalance between giving and receiving. Some people take and take and take, without ever thinking about giving back. They can sometimes be very demanding. In Switzerland we have a saying that goes like this: “not getting the throat full.” What that means is that such a person wants more and more and more, even if she can’t handle all that she receives. These people are takers in the truest sense of the word. Their throat can never be filled – it’s like a black, empty, bottomless pit. This is in most cases due to a lack of love in their childhood or other experiences of a lack of something. This can be food, but mostly love and affection. For these people, there is a constant feeling of short-coming, and they feel cheated by life. Therefore, they feel that life owes them something. And exactly the same kind of person can also be exactly the opposite¼a person who is overly taken advantage of by other people. The giving and the receiving are not balanced.
Example #9: Linda has always been the black sheep of the family. Whenever someone did something wrong, Linda was blamed. She was blamed for every fight and conflict in the family. There were many problems and a shameful history in Linda’s family, all of which were carefully swept under the carpet. By passing on the responsibility to Linda, the family could live with their blind spots quite comfortably. This allowed them to project everything negative onto Linda, rather than confront what needed to be changed in themselves. Instead, they could fault her and fight her. It was easier this way. They had singled out the “guilty” one.
This is how Linda learned very early in her life, to carry other people’s problems on her shoulders. This pattern continues, not only within her family, but also with her friends and acquaintances. She takes the blame for most conflicts immediately and automatically on herself – it has become her nature; it takes place on an entirely unconscious level. She has never learned to question whether others might also have their share of blame in a dispute, or even realize that others tended to project their problems onto Linda.
More and more, she felt like she was carrying the weight of the whole world on her back. She could hardly breathe and felt depressed and immobile, like she was carrying a big, invisible burden. Her overweight condition simply reflected her role as a scapegoat. It also gave her the strength to be able to carry the burdens that were not hers. In the truest sense of the word, she needed broad shoulders in order to be able to carry all that.
Eliminate the Causes First
By now it might be clear to you that a diet alone won’t do the job. If we want to make lasting changes and become slim and healthy for good, we have to get to the root of the hidden psychological issues we have and weed them out. As soon as these underlying causes can be resolved, there is no reason for the person to stay overweight.