Unhappiness with our appearance
Stress related to unhappiness with our health
Anxiety over social situations
Someone emailed me recently and asked if I thought there were psychological costs to obesity. I responded to them privately, but thought that the question was a very interesting one. Are there psychological effects to obesity? And if so, how can we overcome those feelings. First off, let me say that I believe therapy is a great choice for many people who are dealing with depression, anxiety, or anything else that talking with a professional may help. I know from reading your blogs that quite a few of you have been through therapy for a variety of issues and many found it helpful. John and I went to see a Christian counselor during the third year of our marriage seeking help in dealing with an extended family relationship. That time taught us a lot of techniques to use in dealing with certain situations.
I do believe that there is a psychological cost to obesity. I’m no therapist, but I lived the obese life for a decade, and know that those years took an additional toll on my psyche due to my size. The times that I felt shunned by friends and acquaintances, overlooked by salespeople in the stores, and judged because of my size did bad things to my self esteem. I began taking on for my own other people’s perception of me. Perhaps I really was lazy. Maybe I was deficient in self-control. And perhaps I wasn’t as good as everyone else.
Lies all of these. But lies I grew to believe because I felt myself living up to them. I couldn’t seem to control my weight or my food intake. I didn’t get as much done as my thin friends, and maybe I was a little bit lazy.
I began to experience anxiety in situations I never had before. I dreaded meeting with new people and often times found myself feeling ill over the thought of having to introduce myself to a thinner person. I gave every excuse in the book to avoid parties and often succeeded in staying home. Anxiety became part of who I was. Before I gained 150 pounds I wasn’t an anxious person. I wasn’t the most extroverted person in the room but I didn’t “freak out” when I had to meet new people. So for me, obesity took a psychological toll.
The fatter I got the more unhappy, anxious, and borderline depressed I became. I tried to convince myself that I was the same Diane I always had been, but the mirror showed the truth. The psychological component to obesity is real, and the effects of obesity can be very difficult to overcome.
I still feel a little awkward walking into a room full of strangers. “Will they accept me?” I wonder. I sometimes have to tell myself to get a grip on myself, because there is no reason they wouldn’t. Unfortunately I know all too well that we are often initially judged on our appearance, good or bad.
So for me, the psychological cost of obesity was and is real. It was hard to be obese in a thin world, and my psyche took a hit during those ten years. Fortunately, not everyone who struggles with obesity feels the way I did. I always admire people who are at peace with their inner soul while still working on getting the outer body in better shape. I wish that had been me.
What do you think? Is there a real psychological effect associated with weight problems? Diane