A Compassionate Guide to Obesity
The Obesity Epidemic and Getting Healthier
Obesity is officially an epidemic, ranging from the overweight to the morbidly obese. According to recent studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “The prevalence of overweight children and adolescents and obesity in adults in the United States has increased over several decades.” This is not just an American problem, as more than a billion people worldwide are experiencing health problems due to extra weight.
A deeper and holistic awareness of the overweight individual is necessary for any solutions to have long-lasting results. Instead of seeing the obese person as a statistic, a BMI or scale number, we can view the whole person as someone suffering emotionally, physically, and mentally. This is the first step to helping. Do not confuse compassion with pity. This is a call to better understand people suffering from misunderstanding most of their lives.
If you are overweight or know someone who is, here are a few facts to consider. These prove there are instances where the obese individual is thus perceived as a victim and not just an intentional consumer of calories.
Four Insightful Facts about Obesity
1.The human brain has craved high-fat and sugary foods since prehistoric times to prepare for a long, lean winter in the cave.
Our primitive brain still has those cravings but is now easier to appease due to the evolution of our culture of convenience. Our ancestors were also more physically active than we are now. It seems logical under these circumstances that the population would grow heavier over time. The scientific community has coined the term “sitting disease” to describe the growing prevalence of our modern, tech-obsessed, sedentary lifestyle and its negative effects on our health.
2. Our subconscious mind is always awake and ready to be influenced by those knowing how to reach it to affect our behavior.
Brian Wansink, Ph.D., the director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, researches the “hidden persuaders” used by supermarkets, restaurants, and food marketers. External stimuli, such as music, color of the room, and label design, can subliminally encourage us to “mindlessly” eat more calories than necessary.
3. The average American home now has more television sets than people.
Research shows a strong correlation between TV viewing and weight, no matter what age or what they watch. Television watching takes away time that we could spend on physical activity. It distracts us from listening to the body and encourages unconscious eating. Media bombards us with advertising for high calorie, cheesy gooey pizza and other so-called comfort foods to soothe our emotions rather than face them.
4. Research studies link sexual abuse, early childhood trauma, incest, rape, and molestation with obesity.
It has been scientifically proven that more than half of all obese females have had to endure a painful and harrowing event in their past. Psychologically, the weight may help them feel safer and protected from future assaults. Overweight people have not only extra physical weight but also deal with more emotional and mental weight than others.
Stop Judging Persons Who are Overweight
Our society likes to single out heroes and villains and feed into the drama of winners and losers. The celebrity magazines sell us stories that make anyone that gains weight, the ‘bad’ guy. Bullying on all media, social or otherwise, is so prevalent that we added a new meaning for the word troll and trolling to the dictionary. We are constantly encouraged to compare ourselves with others rather than see similarities. Feeling shamed and singled out by bullies is a common dilemma for the overweight.
Start Healing Obesity with Self-Compassion
Maybe it’s because we judge ourselves so harshly that we are less compassionate with others. If we wish to see others in a compassionate light, the best place to begin may be to befriend our own worst enemy: ourselves.
“Find the sweetness in your own heart, then you may find the sweetness in every heart.”
This advice from the wise poet Rumi may not be as easy as it sounds. Loving ourselves unconditionally can be a lifelong process. An essential first step is to improve our self-talk. We can quiet the inner critic that judges and condemns our actions and feelings. Making friends with ourselves begins when we mentally speak with kindness and a gentle, light-hearted tone. Next time we step on the scales or overindulge, speak to yourself with kindness and no judgment. Use a term of endearment as you would to a dear friend.