Fat or Fiction : Is Obesity Killing us?
besity is killing us, yes. But the solution is not as black or white as the problem. Allow me to explain… Let us start with some facts. Firstly, yes, obesity is out of control all across the western world.
Secondly, the medical model response is to treat the symptoms, not the causes. Doctors are all over the media about diabetes, heart disease and all the other attention-grabbing headlines.
In a recent article for The Huffington Post (HERE) author Kate Abbey-Lambertz shares some scary statistics from across the globe. She points out that this ‘pandemic’ spans poor and wealth countries alike, showing that there is more going on than simply the affordability of healthy foods.
A big piece of the puzzle is absent from the media, and I’d like to share what I believe it is.
So what’s really going on in the world? Now let’s talk common sense. Excess body fat isn’t just a cause; it’s also a symptom. It’s the symptom of what comes before the obesity.
Drumroll….. Ladies and gentlemen, we are STRESSED! We are a society of over-worked, emotionally pent-up, self-medicated people. Many of us eat instead of feeling. But the medical model somehow doesn’t acknowledge that.
Can we wake up, people? There is a huge well-being issue that comes as a precursor to the equally huge physical health problem of obesity. When we are talking bariatric surgery and amputations for diabetics, we are catching it far too late! And we are not just a symptom too late; we are a whole condition too late.
If we had dealt with the issue of eating as self-medication, in many cases, obesity would never have occurred. We would have stopped the problem at it’s root before the weight-gain got too out of control.
So what is emotional eating?
Emotional Eating is malnutrition of emotional needs.
Everything in the world of emotional eating is black or white. We are either comforting ourselves or punishing ourselves, celebrating or commiserating. Emotionally, we are up OR we are down; there is no balance.
We eat instead of acknowledging a feeling. We eat as a reward for getting through a horrible day. We eat as a consolation prize for a horrible day too! Sugar, refined carbs and alcohol become our cheer squad, getting us through every day life.
The thing that surprises everyone is that most overeaters are not actually obese.
So I have a saying “Not all emotional eaters are overweight – but many who are overweight are emotional eaters!”.
Why do we lean on unhealthy food?
The message I really want to get across is this. Whether you overeat on asparagus or ice cream, the emotional damage is the same. Of course, most of us overeat on unhealthy foods because the sugars and fats give us both a mental and a biochemical reward. There is a lot of research around on the positive correlation between fatty, sugary food cravings and increased blood cortisol.
Cortisol, in case you didn’t know, is our ‘stress hormone’. We all have cortisol, but stress increases it, and among its many effects on our body, too much cortisol is believed to cause us to store excess visceral fat.
Is if the biochemical reward of fats and sugars wasn’t enough, there is also the societal influence to consider too. We are raised with the notion that ‘bad’ foods are both reward and comfort.
Say you’re a little kid and you’ve fallen off your swing and grazed your knee. An ice cream makes it better, right? How about when you’ve been good and kept quiet on a long car journey – the reward is something sugary and sinful, right again? If that’s not conditioning, I don’t know what is!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming parents, far from it! I’m just saying that this behaviour is all around us.
Emotional eating is on a par with other addictions…
So let’s talk about treating emotional eating as the serious condition that it is.
I personally have been an emotional eater, and have dragged myself through endless cycles of dieting, detoxing, and even surgery. Each time I tried a ‘cure’, I hit a new rock bottom again.
It wasn’t until I entered addiction treatment that I found real change. Sat there, side by side with alcoholics, drug addicts, sex addicts, compulsive gamblers and shopaholics I had an epiphany. We are all the same. Sure, there’s a difference between a chemical addiction and a behavioural one. And yes, there is a difference between food, sex, gambling and shopping… from the outside looking in.
Yet, if you look at life quality, life consequences and risk of suicide or death… our stats were EXACTLY the same. It scared the living daylights out of me. And it woke me up.
We cannot change what we cannot see. So taking a good look at our insides is required to beat the eating. Building up the healthy foundation that was probably never there is the key to all of this. Getting in touch with our needs and our boundaries, learning to honour and nourish our minds, hearts and bodies – also key.
So how about learning to cope with our stressful lives, huh? That would be an endlessly helpful life skill, and would prevent so much heartache and self-destruction in the long run. And I’d be willing to wager that over time it would reduce the need for bariatric health care too.
Isn’t it about time we started looking at health as a ‘whole self’ issue; body AND mind? After all, we can’t separate the two, or had nobody else noticed that?…
By connecting to ourselves on a much deeper level we eliminate the need to use food or any other external solution as a tool to cope with life. This is an issue of mental and emotional well-being after all, long before it becomes about the physical weight gain.
When we get our heads around this, a life of ease and joy becomes possible.
And honestly don’t we want that for all of humanity?