The word obesity is loaded with negative connotations and stigma. But it has become crucial to understand that there are numerous contributing factors that can lead an individual to become obese or morbidly obese. While it is easy to judge a person with obesity as being lazy or lacking willpower, things are a lot more complicated than they seem.
Here, we explore some of the most common contributing factors and how to help you break free from the vicious weight gain cycle.
The weight stigma
We live in a culture of weight discrimination. Individuals report experiencing forms of bias and discrimination related to their weight, and sizeism, almost as frequently, and sometimes even more frequently than gender or race discrimination. To put it in simple terms, being fat becomes a reason for being shamed publicly.
Ironically, the weight stigma actually started for all the right reasons: encouraging people to look after their health and teaching them the danger of extreme weight. But, rather than being educational and inspiring, it has become a legal form of discrimination across the U.S. This “is damaging to both emotional and physical health,” especially because many wrongly assume “that if somebody has a larger body, it’s 100% their fault”.
Existing emotional malaise, such as someone suffering from depression or anxiety, can be heightened by the weight stigma. This can lead to people actively seeking comfort through unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as eating. Overeating can become a vicious cycle as it releases brain chemicals associated with pleasure and comfort. But it also causes additional stress, which results in further food binges.
Therefore, it is important for those stuck in an emotional eating cycle to learn to deal with their emotions in a healthy way. Emotions are tough to handle. But it can help to take a step back and try to see your feelings for what they are. The moment you are able to identify the emotion you are experiencing, you are in a better position to ask others for their perspective, stay calm, and pause.
Underlying medical and environmental conditions
Obesity is never a choice. But for a lot of people, it can become a fatality without sufficient support around. Many medical conditions can lead to weight gains, such as Prader-Willi Syndrome or Cushing’s syndrome. Additionally, other medical issues are prone to lead to obesity, such as arthritis, which makes it harder to maintain an active lifestyle, or hypothyroidism, which reduces your metabolism.
It is also worth noting that your environment can dramatically increase the risks of obesity. People who live in an area with no easy access to convenient walking areas or who need to commute long distances to work are often unable to exercise. Even when they try to include a workout program in their routine, this can be made stressful and unmanageable by their living conditions.
You can gradually make small changes to your health management and lifestyle. But losing weight with medical and environmental challenges is tough. Experts often refer morbidly obese patients, using a BMI calculator to define obesity, to bariatric surgery. Surgery can be a great way to improve their health in a situation where weight loss is extremely challenging.
The bottom line: Weight management is a major part of your health. However, many factors can affect your weight and make it impossible to prevent weight gain. If you are in a situation where you struggle to prevent weight gain, remember that shame and guilt are not going to sort your problems out.