Can You Pinpoint the Root and Does It Matter?

I am asked this question a lot: Diane, were you overweight as a child?

The short answer is that, “No, I was not overweight as a child.”

Here is the proof. I was about 10 years old here. As a side note, this was my very brief foray into softball. I think I played two seasons. I was terrible and a little bit afraid of the softball. But I sure did like those socks.

Diane Carbonell as a young child


However, even though I was not overweight as a child, there were signals that I can now see looking back as an adult that indicated there might be a problem looming in my future.

I began to treat food inappropriately when I was in high school and got my driver’s license. My mom cooked healthy food and we did not have a lot of junk food in the house. However, I had an affection for hamburgers from McDonald’s, Frosty’s from Wendy’s, and chocolate candy from the convenience store.

I’d get in the car to go to a band practice and swing by a fast food restaurant before I got there. I’d eat the food really quick and be right on time for practice. If I was running an errand, I’d add a few candy bars to the order and stick them in my purse for later.

Once I got to college, those behaviors continued.

My saving grace was that I was young, had a young metabolism, and was quite active. I ran on the track, I rode my bike around, and I walked around the huge college campus slugging a backpack and a clarinet around.

However, once I got married, I stopped being active at all. I got a job where I sat all day, I drove the car back and forth to work, and I sat on the couch at night with John eating snacks and junk. And I gained a lot of weight in the first three years of our marriage and then really put on the pounds during my first pregnancy.

Diane Carbonell Early Weight Gain

Looking back, it didn’t take much to push me into morbid obesity. From the time I was in early high school, I already developed unhealthy behaviors and was treating food inappropriately. And those behaviors did not stop once I got married.

Yes, I ate a lot of food in front or, or with John. But I also still went to fast food restaurants without telling him, hid candy behind the canned green beans in the pantry, and almost always had snack food in my purse.

For me, pinpointing the time undesirable behaviors with food started helped me finally lose 150 pounds. Because looking at what was going on with my life at the time also helped me realize what emotions were involved in my journey into morbid obesity.

I think for me, it was a lot about control. Like many teens, I often did not feel in control of my life, and food was something no one (not teachers, relatives, or friends) could control how much I consumed. In college, it was about control, stress, and the new found freedom of living completely on my own.

As I look back, I see lots of missed opportunities in terms of handling my relationship with food differently. There were friends in college who lived a healthy lifestyle and I often think, “Why did I not emulate their behaviors and learn from them?”

I had healthy friends once I got married who weren’t afraid to gently ask “What are you doing to yourself?”

But I didn’t listen. I didn’t emulate. I kept spiraling down until I weighed over 300 pounds.

That’s a glimpse into my story into morbid obesity.

Can you pinpoint a period in your life where you began to struggle with food or did you always struggle with your weight? Does knowing help? Diane

26 thoughts on “Can You Pinpoint the Root and Does It Matter?

  1. Laura says:

    This was definitely about control for me as well. I had a lot put on me when I was younger. As an adult I was the one in the family that was the caregiver and always did the right thing. I chose to do so, and wanted to, but it also felt like a stranglehold on my neck as time went on. Food was the only thing I wanted to have hands off and total freedom with. Baking was relaxing. Being a good cook and baker were the happy times in my family. I found it incredibly hard to give this up, which I finally was able to do in therapy. Of course the crazy thing is that I have now found total freedom in a completely different way that doesn’t hurt me regarding food. It’s a long, slow journey for me but I’m finally on the right path. Thanks always for the inspiration you give to me and others.

  2. HappinessSavouredHot says:

    Weight gain is such a slippery slope! I don’t think any of us is immune to it.

    I always was slim, except during my second pregnancy, I was put on bed rest (risk of premature labor) and the combination of being inactive + eating chocolate to pass the time, I gained 55 pounds.

    I say gaining weight is just like smoking, you know what they say: the easiest way to stop is to never start! It’s so painful to lose weight, much easier to never gain it.

  3. Karen P says:

    Yes, I was 6 years old. Something switched for me. My family started a business. I probably ate as a combo of emotional reasons and my genetic wiring. I feel that it was both. The root mattered to me so that I could stop blaming myself ( I was born this way , with the neurological pathways ) and so I could be responsible as an adult to find food sobriety, clarity and get myself into a remission of sorts.

    I’m finally to the point (it took 40 years of trying) that I can say I’m in remission and I found answers that not only keep my weight steady and in a normal range , but provide good overall health. I’m finally to the point where I can say I may be better off health wise by having to eat clean than if I had been normal weight. Knowing the root(s) is helpful accepting and moving into and staying in recovery with weight. Knowing the root causes keep me from most relapses with food.

  4. Dr. J says:

    I always find it illuminating how you continually attribute your path into morbid obesity on your choice of behaviors, Diane!

    There seems to be so many other “explanations” that people seek and cling to. For the most part, by people that have not been able to do what you have done, probably because they have not applied the change in behaviors that you did.

  5. Contemplative Fitness says:

    Of course this will be different for everyone, but don’t forget to point the finger at the pushers, the dealers,and the pimps of french fries. You know they exist, and you know they preyed on you — your own behaviors notwithstanding.

    I’ll suggest that the tipping point for many people’s food behaviors is largely connected to an evolving food system, and corporate greed.

    It’s easy to beat yourself up, and yes, we as individuals have a great deal of accountability, but the ore this thing unfolds, the more I have come to believe the game has been rigged all along…

  6. Jody - Fit at 55 says:

    I got fat as a kid – the food in the house & fed to us so I know how it happened – wrong food & too much of it…

    I struggled then & have worked every day diligently at maintaining since I lost the weight. It is life long…

  7. Kim says:

    Only 2 times in my life that I struggled with weight – the first was in college (hello 20 pounds in my first semester – even while running cross country on a scholarship!!) – I consumed whole pizzas multiple nights every week! Not cool.
    The 2nd was during my first pregnancy – I truly had no idea how hard it would be to lose all that weight (didn’t happen between my 2 pregnancies!).

  8. Marc says:

    I was not fat as a kid, and kept my weight to an acceptable range in the military. I’ve always used food to deal with stress and between ages 38 and 40 I experienced a lot of stress. I got divorced after 19 years of marriage, I retired from the military, forfeited half my retirement income and I started a new life in a new State. I had to make new friends, a new career, finishing raising at home kids…it was all very stressful. I suppose if I would have turned to booze people wouldn’t have judged me for getting fat (rolling of eyes in a sarcastic manner)

  9. vickie says:

    My guess is if we do not find and address the root, we run a huge risk that the addiction/issue will just transfer to something else (or stay where it is).

    There are (now) a LOT of us who have worked with therapists and it has changed our lives hugely.

    My therapist has always said rarely is there ONE issue or event that set us on our paths. She says people come to therapy (often) looking for that magic ONE thing. And usually it does not exist. We are a culmination of the lot of things.

    I also think that if the inner work is not done, there is not going to be maintenance. Probably there is not even going to be a getting to goal. The inner work has to be done. And most of us need guidance to do it.

    But having said that – I have seen people who have gotten stuck in the loop of looking for answers, while NOT working to change their ways. Looking for answers has become avoidance of actual work/change/application.

    Have to do the inner work and the outer work.

    • RedPanda says:

      I agree that it’s unlikley there will ever be only *one* reason why we gain weight. I was obese from the time I was a toddler (back when obese kids were very rare). Being the “fat kid”, the “big girl” (I hate that expression with a passion!) and the family scapegoat was my assigned role, one which I played very well. My mother loved having an obese daughter and has been *furious* with me ever since I lost weight over nine years ago.

      When I started losing weight, I never worried too much about looking for answers, just started going about the business of getting the weight off. It’s only in hindsight that I can see it all so clearly.

  10. Caron says:

    Although my childhood was less than perfect, I never thought that was a factor in my chubbiness. We were fed good, plain fare and in any amount we chose. I chose to eat a LOT. The only rule was to clean your plate of any food you put on it. I still struggle with that one.

    A teacher called me “fatso” in fourth grade but the few pictures I have seen from that time do not back her up on that statement. My father bribed me at age 13 to lose weight for 25 cents a pound and I was pretty sure he was ashamed of how I looked. Much later in my life, a friend asked me if I looked like my mother and the answer is YES, I look just like her. “There you go”, she said. When he looked at you, he saw her and they parted on the worst of terms. Sigh.

  11. Gwen says:

    It is a two-sided coin. We start to eat unhealthy for various emotional reasons, but then we keep at it, sometimes even after we have healed our emotional issues, because it’s become an ingrained habit. Until we heal AND break the habits, one or the other will always be tugging at us. That, and the carbs. (until we devoid ourselves of them…except those that occur naturally in fruits and veggies.)

    Thanks for sharing, Diane!

  12. Lisa says:

    There were a few triggers that caused my weight gain. I was just a normal kid and a slightly chubby teen but not overweight until 17. My grandfather died and it was a shock and the grief lead me to eat. That packed on a good 40 pounds. About 5 years later, a really bad breakup added on another 30 or 40 pounds.

  13. Janis says:

    It sounds like a reaction to freedom and lack of adult supervision that sort of … got out of hand. I’ve said this before, but it speaks so highly of you that you recognized this and said, “Enough.” You strike me as an amazingly together and level-headed person, and you made yourself that person that you are today.

    I think I must have put some</i. weight on when I went to college only because I did have my share of dinners that consisted of personal pizzas from the student union building and chocolate-dipped chocolate chip cookies on a stick. It never got out of hand, but I think a lot of people simply start eating indulgent things when they reach adulthood just as a reaction to not having someone telling you you can't. If we're either not overly motivated by food (me) or have a good foundation for the development of mature adult behavior (you), then we recover from it at some point and move on. Depending on how attractive food is to us, that can take some time.

    I also agree with Vickie above about how it can cause problems to search for the One Reason Why, though. We are all a complex sum of our natural tendencies and our life experiences.

  14. Rachelle says:

    Hi Diane, yes for me it was my repeat sneaking snacks behavior. I hide food everywhere, took snacks at every chance I got and ate fast food solo cause if no one was around it was ok, no one to judge me. However, the guilt was always be hard to deal with and how I felt about myself was unbearable. So I did change! With help and support of my family. I embraced changing my whole lifestyle, not just my diet. Now, a year later my confidence is so much higher, I sleep, wow I sleep so good and have so much more energy. This always starts with changing yourself, commitment and of course a quality support group of friends and family

  15. Bonnie says:

    It was when I had my only child that my weight struggles began and its been a battle ever since. I think I had a permanent hormone change because when I got older and more hormones changed it got worse. Just never give up.

  16. Gigi says:

    I was always a busy kid and “filled out” around puberty. I was up and down by about 10-20 pounds but mostly in target range. Then I got married and as they say, once you’ve caught the bus you can stop running. I really packed it on with the isolation being a stay at home mom and marital challenges. I have let circumstances – at times overwhelming and crushing – take me away from doing right by myself. I am having to remind myself that I am stronger than my circumstances.

  17. Wi Matthew says:

    I was lucky as a youngster I suppose, because we couldn’t afford a lot of snack foods. Any sweet stuff was looked on as a special treat. I was also very active, taking part in lots of different sports. That changed as I got older, boring desk job and disposable income are not a good combination! I probably put on 50-60 pounds from the weight I was when I was in good shape. I eventually decided to just cut down on the ‘crap’ that I was eating. I have not cut out everything, but just cutting down has made a noticeable difference. I just need to motivate myself to taking more regular exercise now!

  18. Alejandra @ wishfulshrinking says:

    It actually took this 3rd weight gain for me to pinpoint where this started. My story is very similar to yours. Very active skinny kid with a metabolism I miss, ate Wendy’s spicy chickens and double cheeseburgers from McD’s. Food was a reward, food was a comfort, food was typically not even “food”. A series of life altering events early in my 20s sent me into a dark depression, and along with my changing body and metabolism, and there it was- my plight into almost obesity. It wasn’t until this go around that I overhauled my lifestyle and ditched the diets that I saw the light. Thanks for sharing, you’re always getting inside my head! In a good way! 🙂

  19. Jan says:

    For me it was just a lot of negative talk from my mother. I started off skinny and as a teenager sought food for comfort.

  20. Joe says:

    My eating was similar in high school. I ate fast food, pizza and candy in large quanities. It didn’t really make an impact on me though because I was a 3 sport athlete and rarely was there a day when I was exercising. I think when i was in my mid 20’s is where I started to slide because I wasn’t as active but I kept the same terrible eating habits.

  21. Meghan Rich says:

    I was always a thin teenager and ate so bad…, midnight fast food runs with friends, summer ice cream trips, theme park food ect. But I remained thin but once I turned 22 and continued those habits even with being active I finally got fat for the first time in life. I gained 30lbs I decided on my 25th birthday that I wanted to be thin and healthy before having my first child, by 27 I got back down to a size 4 and got pregnant, I am 28 and my baby is one and I have lost all but 5 lbs of my pregnancy weight (I ll get it off, it’s a slow process) but my point is that for years I thought I coupd eat whatever I want but i am grateful that my body caught up with me because now being healthy is such an important part of my life and I want to be around for my son for a very long time, what also keeps me motivated is my love for fashion so vanity plays us a small role, but it’s hard work and those emotional barriers (for me food equates to fun) are hard to get over. Thanks Diane for another thoughtful post.

  22. Tiff says:

    I think it definitely does matter if you can pinpoint where/when/why you began gaining weight. When people try to lose weight without looking at the circumstances that caused them to gain it in the first place, they are doing themselves a huge disservice in their weight loss efforts.

  23. GiGi Eats Celebrities says:

    Oh yes yes yes, I can tell you for SURE… That is, if you want an ESSAY! LOL!

    It all started in boarding school. I had no control over my situation. So I tried to control my food. And it worked, but too much so! Yeah. I had a problem…. Luckily I was able to deal with it and I am ALL in the clear now, but… Every so often I definitely have a thought or two about… THAT time of my life! Honestly though, it only made me the person I am today – and I have to say, I do like myself (in a non-self absorbed way).

  24. L says:

    I suffered from a triple whammy in my youth: 5’10” tall in fifth grade, 160 lbs in sixth grade, married three days after I turned eighteen and pregnant right away. Was I an emotional eater? You bet! My parents divorced when I was five. I think from that point forward, I was soothed with baked goods and kool-aid. It all took a toll pretty early.

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