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Psychological Consequences Of Being Overweight

Harry Mills, Ph.D.

Psychological consequences of being overweight or obese can include lowered self-esteem and anxiety, and more serious disorders such as depression and eating disorders such as binge eating, bulimia and anorexia. The reasons for why this is so aren't hard to fathom. Modern culture is singular in the way that it worships youthful slim, toned bodies. With rare exceptions, only thin, proportional bodies are considered sexy. Obese or overweight people are looked down upon. It's easy to feel bad about one's self, to become depressed or anxious or to to develop obsessions around eating control when one's culture makes it clear that the way one appears is wholly undesirable.

One doesn't have to be overweight to get into psychological trouble with eating, either. Eating is pleasurable, and because this is true, all manner of people (fat and thin both) end up using eating as a ready source of emotional comfort when they are feeling stressed out. It comes as no surprise that such stress-induced eating leads to weight gain, which in turn leads many people (especially women) to feel still worse about themselves, motivating still more stress-based eating and additional weight gain. All too often, stress-based comfort eating becomes a vicious cycle and downward spiral.

Loss Of Energy and Joy For Life

If the negative health and shame aspects of being overweight aren't enough, overweight people also tend to have less energy than their normal weight peers. Because it takes them more effort than their peers to be active, they tend to gravitate towards low-activity lifestyles and become sedentary. An unfortunate circle develops wherein the less active people become the greater their risk of gaining still more weight, and the more weight people gain, the less likely they are to become more active. Life stresses seem more overwhelming as exercise (which could begin the process of reversing this downward spiral of decreasing energy levels) is avoided and a major opportunity for the reduction of muscle tension, stress and anxiety is lost. Over time, even ordinary tasks of daily life like going up a flight of stairs can lead to exhaustion and a sense of premature aging.