Causes and Treatment of Obesity


How did we become obese?

It is common in our culture to think that if someone refuses food that it is a sign of a problem. Being a little chubby is a symbol of a healthy person, while being extremely skinny is seen as unhealthy. Many studies show that obesity is more common with the female population and it is an epiphenomenon of sexual development. Fat tissue can be properly and equally arranged all over the body, but during our development it is common to have irregularly accumulated fat on the waist line and abdomen area. For males, obesity is a greater problem, especially if it is accumulated in the abdomen or, well, the buttocks. Obese people are more or less mobile and it is hard to say if obese people are passive as a consequence of obesity, or as a cause. Other than being less mobile, obese people are less adjustable socially speaking and, therefore, they are not accepted by their environment as “regular” looking people are. In some projective psychological techniques like “Rorschach”, they show a distorted body image or a less developed body image and confusion concerning sexual identity.

There are several types of obesity:

  1. Obesity without emotional problems
  2. Obesity as a respond to stress and inner conflict (separation, divorce, operation, etc.) that is usually regulated after the stressor is eliminated
  3. Permanent obesity that is developed due to deeper emotional disorders (neurosis, psychosis and character disorders). This is the one that is primarily developed – emotional problems developed secondarily.

Psychodynamics and causes of obesity

Causes of eating disorders can be many and they are usually joined together. Causes can be metabolic, hormonal, psychological, constitutional and social. There is no doubt that feeding habits are primarily organized in parent-child relationships. Parents feed their children and they are providing them with their first experiences that will significantly influence and determine eating disorders.

In overeating, there is a symbolism of extreme food intake – hyperphagia. Overeating can be caused by parents, when they over-feed their children, because they are insecure and full of inner conflicts. Mothers who cannot show affection in other ways, “stuff” their children with food. For those mothers food is a symbol of power and strength and the feeding situation is viewed as loving and giving. This pattern is later used when a person needs love and affection. Food becomes a replacement for love and close relationships. Some mothers use feeding to reduce the feeling of guilt because they are insecure in their role as a mother and have got an impression that they are not caring enough. A mother that does not have empathy for her child and does not participate in building a body image with her baby will probably find it very easy to pacify her baby by giving it new amounts of food, over and over again, every time the baby is crying and is dissatisfied. This will not help the baby develop the sense of what is being hungry and what is being full. This will have consequences. It usually leads to a distorted body image and a wrong distinction between being hungry, being full and some emotional conditions.

Overeating can replace the unsatisfied need for love. Due to certain patterns in early childhood, people can intake food that symbolically means love. Also, overeating can have other meanings. Sometimes people indulge in eating when feeling depressed, scared, in order to reduce anxiety and aggression and when they are bored. People who face weight problems show emotional problems and have difficulties with managing their weight. People who ask for help because of weight problems usually have a problem with binge eating.

So, obesity can be caused by psychological issues, conflicts and problems. However, there are also other causes of obesity.

  • Age is an important factor, because of the body’s ability to metabolize food. As we get older, our metabolism becomes slower and a person does not require as many calories as when he or she was young. This is why people gain weight. Even though people have the same eating habits and lead active life, it is not the same if a person is 20 or 40 years old.
  • Gender can determine whether you have a greater chance to be obese or not. It has been concluded in many studies that women tend to be more overweight than men. Men can burn more energy while they rest, which means their metabolism is faster than a woman’s metabolism. Men require more calories to maintain the body weight. Also, when woman are postmenopausal, their metabolic rate decreases. This is partly why women gain some extra weight after menopause.

Obesity and thinness depend on genetics, but many people who have a predisposition to become obese do not become fat. They maintain their weight or are able to keep it off. In many studies with adopted children, they found that the participant’s weight is closer to their biological parents, rather than their adoptive parents. There is a 75% chance that a person becomes obese if his or her mother is obese in her adulthood, or a 75% chance to be thin, if his or her mother is thin.

Our environment has a great influence on us. Genes are an important factor, when it comes to becoming obese or thin, but our environment plays great role. Lifestyle behaviors such as preferred food and importance of sports are relevant in maintaining weight.

There are many neurological and hormonal conditions that can lead to obesity. Some illness can sometimes lead to becoming obese, even though eating habits are healthy and a person is careful about his or her nutrition. A hormonal problem called hypothyroidism depression and some brain diseases can lead to overeating.

Antidepressants and many other medications can cause excessive weight gain, even though eating habits are constant and well planned.

Emotional aspects of obesity

Emotional problems and suffering are usually what follows weight problems and obesity. Our society gives great emphasis on physical appearance, especially on being fit and skinny. Beautiful is equal to skinny. This puts on a lot of pressure on those who feel a little overweight and even more on those who are obviously overweight. Even if a person is not obese, this kind of pressure can lead to comfort or binge eating which can cause obesity.

Also, there are many stereotypes for obese people. Society usually sees them as lazy and gluttonous. There is much evidence that prove these stereotypes wrong and some of them are mentioned here. Illnesses can cause obesity. This kind of obesity is not easily controlled and sometimes it cannot be controlled at all. There are cases of prejudice or discrimination of obese people on work, at school, while looking for a job and also in many social situations. This is why feelings of depression, shame and rejection are common for obese people. Also this can lead to low self-worth and low self-esteem.


If a cause of obesity is neither a neurological nor a hormonal problem, changing one’s lifestyle can be the safest way to lose weight. Becoming more active, eating healthy and exercising is a great weight to start leading a healthy life. This will be a long and slow journey but it will give you the healthiest and the best results.

Dieting should not be starving yourself and torturing your body. The main goal should be learning new and healthier ways of eating and creating a healthy eating habit.

After you consult your doctor or nutritionist you can use some of the supplements and herbal remedies that will help you lose weight – you will need to continue with your new, active and healthy life style.

Some people with severe obesity have are in great risk to develop a disease, and bariatric surgery can reduce that risk. Obesity can lead to these diseases: arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and stroke. Weight loss surgeries are laparoscopic gastric banding, gastric bypass surgery and sleeve gastrectomy which is not very common.

Psychotherapy is usually indicated if there is a sign of psychological (emotional) causes for obesity. Also, therapy can be indicated when a person needs support to follow through with changing lifestyle, eating habits and exercising.


Obesity is a major health threat and a condition that demands a lot of will and strength. Many people find it easier to follow dieting and an exercise plan and the whole change of lifestyle, if they join a group of people with similar problems. You can also find support in your family and with friends who can help you in your everyday activities.


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