Do you have someone in your life who wants you to be fat? It may be why you're not losing weight. This article looks at psychological factors in the environment that play an important role in overweight.
The following psychological factors in the environment may encourage people to overeat:
- pressure from parents and loved ones
- appetite stimulating cues
- psycho-social expectations
Parents and loved ones
It is ironic that parents and the people we love are often the ones who not only encourage overeating, but trap us in a tangled web of emotions that make it practically impossible to diet and/or exercise.
Despite the advances in our knowledge regarding overeating, there are many parents who encourage their children to “Eat up. It’s good for you” or “Finish all the food on your plate.” These parents also often equate food intake with love and approval. If you, the child, don’t eat the food that has lovingly been prepared for you, then you are branded as ungrateful, willful and unloving.
On the other hand if you dutifully eat the mountains of food that are dished up for you at every meal (without asking what and how much you would like to eat!), then you are rewarded with love and affection. This type of tyranny has far-reaching psychological effects on future eating patterns.
If you are taught to regard food as a reward and a substitute for love, then you will revert back to food as a comfort and a source of satisfaction every time you have a crisis in your life, with disastrous consequences for your weight.
And then there are the beloved partners who actively discourage attempts at slimming. “You don’t need to diet, I love the way you look.” Partners are also experts at undermining one’s resolve to eat a balanced diet or exercise regularly. Does your partner moan about the fact that you are not cooking traditional meals dripping with fat? Or does she/he sabotage your plans to go to the gym?
Or tell you that you are looking haggard after you have lost those first few hard-won kilograms? Basically these husbands or wives are either trying to manipulate you psychologically or are themselves afraid that once you lose weight you will no longer be so easy to control. An attractive slender partner may be regarded as a threat or as competition.
How to escape the trap
If you are caught in the tender trap of emotional overweight due to pressure from parents or partners, then the first thing you need to do is to realise how these people are manipulating you. Step back and take a good, hard look at your relationship and figure out how you are being kept a prisoner by being fat.
Try to assess why your parents/partners are resorting to this type of blackmail. Do they lack confidence or are they trying to hurt you or control you? Once you have identified the reasons which motivate them and how they are going about keeping you from dieting and/or exercising, then you can plan how to elude the tender trap.
If you cannot achieve this on your own, then please get help from a clinical psychologist. Even if your parents or partners refuse to attend therapy sessions with you, the changes that take place in your psychological makeup will be sufficient to upset the balance of the household system that imprisons you and to set you free.
Advice for parents
If you read this article and come to realise that you are encouraging your child to overeat because you cannot express your love in any other way, or because you want to keep control of him or her, then please try to do something about the situation. Show your love by trusting your child and allowing him or her to develop emotionally without using food as a crutch or a comfort.
Keep mealtimes as pleasant as possible and stop yourself from saying things like “Eat your food. Just think of the starving children in Africa, you ungrateful child.” Unless they are suffering from an eating disorder, children and teenagers should be allowed to select how much they want to eat at meals.
Studies have shown that even young children can select a good variety of food when they are not pressured to eat by adults. Keep emotions out of eating and your children will grow up without being dependent on food and a lot less likely to suffer from obesity. - (Dr IV van Heerden, DietDoc, updated December 2011)
The obese personality
Plan your weight loss
Any questions? Ask DietDoc