written by Matt Marchant
Welcome to part 2 in the "Your Diet Failed... You Didn't" series. Now we are ready to look into the seven emotional benefits to being overweight. Why just look to being overweight? Being overweight is not the only reason why people go on diets. This is very true, but from my professional experience, most people go on diets to lose weight. I agree that some do so to put on muscle and others do so for health reasons, but most diets are done and promoted under the pretense to lose weight.
I have found that whether the reason for going on a diet is for weight lose or to regain health from disease, the emotional benefits from being either overweight or sick are the same.We will be using the word "overweight", but you can change the word for "sick" or "diseased", and you may find that it is applies in many cases.
What are the emotional benefits to being overweight?
I invite you to consider that there are many emotional benefits to being overweight, I have offered just seven. When these emotional benefits become more important than the physical detriments, it is easy to see why we put on weight even when we know it is unhealthy and may be killings us. The benefits found in being overweight are similiar to the benefits found in all self sabotaging behavior. When the internal (emotional) benefits we recieve from our choices, become needed and valued more than the external (physical/social) detriments, self sabotage is taking place. Self sabotage is when I say I want to lose weight, yet my behavior and choices say otherwise. Self sabotage is also when in wanting something, needing something, and working towards something, physical or social problems are created in my life that I do not want.
Whether being overweight, underweight, obsessed with food, or obsessed with our body, these are all ways in which we sabotage ourselves physically, in order to recieve emotional benefits, that we will find out - really no longer benefit us.
Some of the possible benefits to being overweight:
#1. I have an excuse to get out of doing things.
This means that I can get out of having to go out and doing things with others. I may even get out of having to work at certain jobs, or have an excuse to not work at my own job. Having an excuse, whether valid or not, gives the person with the excuse the illusion of power.
What does that mean, “the illusion of power”? When we feel out of control over what is currently happening to us, the use of an excuse can get us out of that situation. Whether permanently or temporarily. When we can get out of a situation that we feel we have no control over, we instantly feel we have control by being to get ourselves out of it. This is the illusion of control.
It is an illusion, because in order to feel the control of getting ourselves out of a situation, we have to lose control to being overweight. Do you see the paradox? Do you see the trap?
Excuses give us the illusion of power at times when we feel powerless.
#2. I can drop out of our competitive culture.
Western culture is much more competitive than cooperative. There are both light and shadow aspect to each (positive and negative). This western culture mentality tends to embrace the shadow side of competitiveness = we are compared to others. Whether we are being judged by others, or by ourselves, no one likes to be judged. Being overweight can be an easy way to drop out of all things competitive and comparative. It essentially saying, “I am overweight, you are better than me at ____, you win. You can now stop comparing me to others.”
The paradox to this is that we still are being judged by others. Now, not for how well we match up, but for how far we are behind. The shadow side of competition is a lose lose situation.
It is easy to drop out of the competitive and comparative parts of society when we are overweight.
#3. I have an instant, easy, and abundant way to ease my anxiety or grief.
Food offers us an instant and easy source of comfort. It is also very abundant. When food becomes a pain reliever, it is easy to see the benefit to being overweight. If we where to compare food to other sources of emotional pain relief, it clearly is “safer”.
Here are some examples: food is not illegal, you cannot be arrested for eating too much, overeating is condoned in all restaurants, you cannot overdose, and more. The list could go on, but you get the idea. If you had to choose a suboptimal way of dealing with pain, when compared to others suboptimal methods - food is not that bad of choice.
Food gives us instant comfort from emotional pain, with few immediate negative consequences.
#4. I can meet my emotional needs without having to “need” others.
Meeting my needs with food means that I do not have to have others around to meet my needs. This is the illusion of power, “I don’t need others, like others need others, I just need my food.” Underneath the “pathetic-ness” of being overweight and unable to control my weight, I am arrogant about how I get my needs met when I compare myself to others.
Not needing others to comfort me makes me feel arrogant while I’m feeling pathetic about overeating.
#5. I get special attention, and get noticed more.
Whether sick, injured, or unhealthy, we will get special attention when we are. Whether dying our hair orange, tattooing our face, or putting a lot of weight, we will get noticed when we do. The paradox for someone overweight is this: We desire attention (as all humans do), but at the same time we feel they feel insecure about the attention. It is a very confusing place to be in for anyone. Look at me without looking at me.
Being overweight may be the only way someone knows how to get noticed, and not being noticed is more painful than being overweight.
#6. I am less available for romantic relationships.
Being overweight in this country may also mean that we are less attractive to others. How in the world could that benefit us? All relationships, especially romantic ones, require a certain degree of vulnerability. Being vulnerable can be an d usually is a frightening thing. I would invite you to consider that it is the biggest fear for all of humanity.
When the fear of vulnerability becomes greater than the desire for relationship, it is easy to see how we can shy away from intimate relationships. There are many ways to “shy away”. An easy way to to make yourself less attractive, than what current culture dictates. In this way we can still pretend to others that we “are trying” to meet others, but that it is “just not working because of my weight.” This is also convenient way to back off from having to be vulnerable in a current relationship - by making ourselves less attractive or approachable on purpose.
Now, this “purpose” is most likely not a “purpose” according to the conscious mind, but to the subconscious mind. Many therapists would agree that the conscious mind makes up only 8% of who we are, leaving a whopping 92% to the subconscious. Whether this is accurate or not, is not the point. The point is: There is a large part of us that is sub-conscious, or in other words, underneath our consciousness. Another way of describing the subconscious mind is by saying that the subconscious mind represents that there are things about us that we know we do not know about.
If there is a part of us that fears being intimate and vulnerable with another, might we do anything we can to keep that possibility away from us. Whether that fear is expressed as not wanting a relationship, ending relationships quickly, or by distancing ourselves from the other in our current relationship, being overweight is just one of many ways to make our fear disappear - closeness, intimacy, and vulnerability disappear.
Being overweight may make us less available for the vulnerability of a relationship.
#7. I can communicate my needs without the fear of having to communicate.
Asking for what we want or need can be a scary thing, especially if we have had a history of asking and not receiving. Even worse may be when we ask and are actually told that our wants or needs are not important. This is where a fear of communicating our needs can come from.
If we are not able to express our needs, we will have to suppress our needs. But what if there was another way, a non-verbal way to express our needs to others? Just as infants have learned to express their needs through crying, although they are still unable to communicate with language, overweight children or adults have learned to express their needs through their appearance.
Being overweight is an easy an effective alternative to suppressing our needs. Being overweight says, “I have unmet needs that I need to let others know about. I do not feel safe enough yet to express those needs to the person or people I need to, but I must communicate those needs somehow. Here is the somehow.”
Being overweight may be the only way someone knows how to communicate what they need from others or from themselves.
Are you able to see how these seven statments are able to "benefit" us?
Can one part of us find benefit in the same thing another part of us finds suffering in?
Could it be true that the "benefits" protect us emotinally from being hurt or becoming vulnerable, while they are hurting our body, and hindering other emotions?
The benefits we recieve from being overweight are an illusion: They appear to benefit us from our point of view; one point of view.
Are you ready to consider taking another point of view?
These are benefits to being overweight, but they are only temporary benefits. By benefits I mean that which works for a part if us, but not for our entire self. In other words, one part may benefit from a decision, while the rest of us suffers. Poor health and lifestyle choices will ultimately catch up to us. If these “benefits” are not eventually seen for what they truly are - temporary sources of numbness from a painful reality, we may wind up sick, diseased, or dead. We all chose sources of numbeness - sometimes and for some people it happens to be food.
You are not alone. We all make choices and do things we wish we didn't or had more control over.
Awareness is the first step.
If we become aware to the message of the body, and hand ourselves some compassion for where we are, perhaps the body will no longer need to communicate to us in the same fashion as it has.
I invite you to consider whether these things may be true for you. It is my belief that our bodies act primarily as a reflection for us to learn more about our true selves. I am grateful for how my body “speaks” to me. Without it, I may never find peace and purpose to my life.
What is your body teaching you today?
If you would like to learn more about creating a personalized eating plan that is right for you, please feel free to contact me. If you would like to talk more about how your experience and beliefs about your weight or health have created challenges for you please feel free to contact me. Thank you for for time and courage to read thought this material. You may contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (714) 342-0359.
Resources to learn more:
“Healing the Shame that Binds You” by John Bradshaw
“Being Fat Has Nothing To Do With Food” by Pat terHeun
“Biochemical Individuality: The Key to Understanding What Shapes Your Health” by Roger, J. Williams, Ph.D.
“Digestive Wellness: Strengthen the Immune System and Prevent Disease Through Healthy Digestion” by Elizabeth Lipski, Ph.D.
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