Obesity is becoming America’s number one health problem, particularly because it can lead to so many serious medical conditions. The Health Coach finds that the causes and the cures remain quite elusive for many because of the pervasive misunderstanding around both.
Rather than focus on the traditional aspects of obesity, we will direct your attention to those which are seldom mentioned. There are very profound and significant emotional and mental components to this imbalance which warrant a close look. Each of them revolves around the issue of stress and how we deal with it in our lives.
Truly, stress is the primary trigger for virtually all of our physical maladies. Actually, it is our habitual and programmed ways for processing stress which is at the root of many ailments and imbalances. The mismanagement of stress is the most influential co-factor in the development of chronic obesity. Simply put, the overwhelming pressures of modern life cause many of us to adapt in ways that contribute to an over-size body.
Here are just a couple of the maladaptive responses which many overweight folks have evolved during the course of their lifetimes.
Emotional Armoring — Life is full of situations where we might find ourselves under assault. These assaults may come in the form of physical attacks, emotional traumas, mental battles, wars of will, psychological battles among many others. Especially when we find ourselves in a relationship that is relentless in delivering any form of these assaults we often evolve a type of emotional armoring which is unconsciously developed as a means of self protection. This self defense mechanism, when used over periods of time, frequently translates to the physical phenomenon of creating buffers or layers of body fat. These are meant to serve as an armor of sorts, protecting us from the assaults of life.
There are certainly many predicaments in life which encourage this kind emotional armoring. An abusive spouse, a tyrannical boss, a domineering parent, a son or daughter who victimizes their parent for past injustices. The list is quite long since there are so many dysfunctional relationships in Western society. The pervasive alienation and estrangement, which occurs in so many families, sets up a pattern for both the cause and effect of emotional armoring. Therefore, recognizing that it is operative in your life is the most important step.
As always, breaking out of the denial phase of this type conditioning marks the beginning of the end of its hold on you. Once you identify the “usual suspects” you can start the process of recovery toward wholeness. This often begins with taking back your power and standing in your own truth. Taking this initiative alone will often free one of the grip that the other in an unhealthy relationship may have on you. Ultimately, as genuine self respect continues to develop within your being, respect is returned to you by those around you. The cycle of disrespect in the form of abuse, victimization or derision is broken. And the need for 24/7 emotional armoring completely goes away like a snake shedding its skin.
The product successfully eradicating this tendency is that the physical body will respond accordingly. The many reflexes and habits in regard to diet will naturally leave your life. So will the different lifestyle practices which kept you from exercising or stretching or doing your daily hatha yoga. Furthermore, you will make room in your life for other daily practices which contribute to a healthy and wholesome life.
It’s very easy to confuse this underlying reason for obesity with the previous one. Body buffering is significantly different because it does not stem from abuse; rather, it precipitates from a deep often unconscious need or desire to cushion oneself from the bumps and hard edges of life. The current race of humanity does come from two different places, yes? The men are predominantly from Mars, whereas the women are mostly from Venus. However, the planet itself has been dominated by the men who built it who tend to be rough around the edges and not too concerned with the softer and more rounded aspects of life. Because of this, our society reflects the hardness, coldness, and sharp edges which exist everywhere.
Very gentle, delicate and sensitive souls often times will create their own buffers to cushion themselves from these features of the Iron Age that we currently live in. They don’t even know they’re doing it. As a way of insulating themselves from the cold temperatures of the North, or hard edges of living in a big city, some will layer themselves with fat tissue.
There are many healthy and constructive ways of dealing with these same issues. Therefore, upon recognition of this root cause of the weight gain, it is usually very easy to compensate in other postive ways. All it takes is shining the light of awareness on the true causes so that they can be exposed and systematically addressed. Simple things like wearing more clothes when it’s cold or changing one’s attitude toward harsh living conditions or a severe work environment. There are also many fun games one can play with oneself to coax one away from a maladaptive behavior and toward an approach that is patient, tolerant and forbearing.
Looking closely at the cost/benefit ratio of body buffering will quickly reveal that carrying around so much weight is not that easy. Not only does it set one up for a whole host of different health problems and medical conditions, it makes the practical living of life quite difficult. From seats that are too small in the airplane and movie theatre, to finding clothes that fit, to being turned down for life and /or health insurance, life can be very challenging. The more one considers this downside, the easier it is to justify a movement to the thinner side of life.
Self Proclamation ~ Self Assertion ~ Self Promotion
We live in a world in which most everyone is trying to get their 15 minutes of fame. These folks want to be seen, to be heard, to be known somewhere on the landscape of life. On the flip side, many feel very hopeless or powerless over many of the circumstances in their life. They get depressed easily about the trials and tribulations which never seem to let up. Most importantly these people would like to carve out a bit of space which is theirs and theirs alone. And so they do. They carve out a big piece of space by growing a large body which cannot be denied by anyone.
No one can deny that this very large person has arrived … anywhere … anytime … anyhow. They have shown up with great presence and this is what this obese individual is really looking for. Sometimes they want acknowledgment; sometimes a compliment; sometimes fame or fortune. No matter what it is, their large profile is a way of saying, “I’m here, please don’t ignore me.” Or, please accept me as another breathing, living member of the human race. For so many it is often just a matter of simple acknowledgement which is craved.
Taking up space in this manner is also a way of proclaiming that they are a force to be dealt with. They are not powerless or vulnerable and can take care of themselves. Therefore, don’t even think of taking advantage or exploiting them. At the end of the day this particular psychological profile will eventually come to the knowing that they are not their body, they are something much greater. The sooner they come to this and other truthful self realizations they are able to release all of the body mass which was added only so they would be recognized or commended.
There are other emotional temperaments and mental predispositions which serve as psychological templates for obesity. These will be taken up in Part II on the same subject. We heartily appreciate the many who have shared their experiences in this regard with us over the years. This particular health challenge is often a life-long struggle which discourages and frustrates the toughest among us.
We especially thank the many gentle giants who have bared their souls in the process of recovery. They are usually the victims of ridicule, especially when they had to deal with childhood obesity which is now quite common. It didn’t used to be and “back in the days” was looked at quite judgmentally and with a unfair share of pejorative labeling.
Lastly, we do not intend to minimize some of the physical realities that are associated with obesity. There are different biochemical, physiological and hormonal dynamics which both contribute to and play a part in the feedback loops which often keep an individual in an overweight state. However, we would suggest that the great majority of these are purely psychosomatic in nature in that the mind has sufficiently exerted its influence over the matter.
May you enjoy great health,
The Health Coach
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