Living with Obesity
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it’s estimated that currently, more than 650 million people suffer from obesity. Many of these are children and young people, with percentages that have tripled since 1975. Most researchers aren’t afraid to label the numbers as an epidemic. As you’ll see, living with obesity is not an easy matter.
As Harvard Health Publishing reminds us, reversing this disorder goes far beyond a simple calorie count. In today’s article, we’ll focus on some guidelines that go unnoticed among many obese patients.
The emotions of living with obesity
Until not too long ago, attention to emotions was a secondary problem among obesity specialists. Most were focused on the physical plane, thus forgetting the complex psychosocial impact that surrounds all obese people.
Fortunately, today there’s a consensus among researchers that psychosocial well-being is an essential part of living with obesity. Although the negative impact of the disorder can be felt in different ways, we’ll look at three of the most important ones below.
As the European Coalition for People Living with Obesity (ECPO) very well points out, stigma is a frequent consequence of obesity. Obese people have to deal, from a very young age, with the bias and prejudice of a group of people towards their condition.
According to some studies, the stigma centers most of the time on common misconceptions about the reasons for weight gain (for example, that it’s only related to overeating or not exercising). This can come from colleagues, friends or family, and it is a big obstacle when trying to treat the disorder.
As a consequence, people develop low self-esteem, feelings of shame and guilt, anxiety, negative thoughts, and even suicidal thoughts. Stigma can prevent many obese people from getting a job (or getting a promotion), isolating them socially, lowering their educational performance, and many other similar obstacles.
There are several ways to counter stigma. One of the most important ways is through public and private initiatives aimed at raising awareness. In many countries, there are laws designed to reverse this trend. The things you can do on your own, following the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), are the following:
- Inform your close circle (family and friends) about the repercussions of the stigma. Encourage them to do the same.
- Express, whenever possible and politely, disagreement with certain prejudicial attitudes about obesity.
- Go to therapy with a professional psychologist to work on negative feelings.
Depression and obesity
There are a few studies and some research that have found a direct association between obesity and depression. It affects all age and gender groups and can even persist when progress has already been made during treatment. We know that episodes of depression can encourage weight gain, creating a snowball effect in the medium and long term.
Depression was considered an eccentric disorder in those people who, for some reason, didn’t want to be happy. Its stigma in society is decreasing, and the initiative to treat it at the hands of professionals (psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, and others) literally saves thousands of lives every year.
Don’t hesitate to consult with specialists if you develop some of the symptoms of depression. As we have indicated, this can be a giant hurdle during treatment. Not to mention all the problems directly associated with it. Get to know the symptoms of depression so that you are alert to the signs.
By acceptance, we’re not saying that obesity is a disorder that doesn’t require treatment. Instead, we’re talking about accepting that you have a condition that’s associated with dozens of comorbidities and problems that can reduce life expectancy.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an approach that has been used as a method of weight loss. Studies and research support its use, as long as it’s applied by a professional. The first step to achieving change is to be aware of its importance – something that you must remember permanently when living with obesity.
Tips for living with obesity
In parallel with emotional care, there are many things you can do to live with obesity. We won’t explore the treatment options, as that will be for another post, but we’ll simply bring you recommendations that can make your life simpler on your way to cope with the disorder.
- Learn about public and private initiatives in your community to prevent and address obesity (CDC suggests starting with schools, colleges, hospitals, and food service venues).
- Avoid eating out and replace this habit with homemade preparations.
- Limit the time you spend in front of the screen (Harvard TH Chang recommends only two hours a day).
- Join face-to-face or online support groups aimed at fighting obesity.
- Keep track of what you eat on a daily basis. In this way, you’ll be able to track your actual eating habits at the end of each week.
- Involve all members of your family to follow healthy habits.
- Consider hiring a personal trainer to set realistic goals.
- Don’t get obsessed with achieving short-term goals.
- Ponder the possibility of surgery only as a last option and when you have already made significant progress (as advised by the American Heart Association).
The important thing is that you understand that living with obesity doesn’t imply walking the road alone. Specialists from different disciplines, along with family and friends, are a great help during the process. The sooner you can assimilate this, the more committed you will be to maintaining long-term treatment.It might interest you...