Psychological Causes of Obesity

Many people take obesity as a sign of a gluttonous and indulgent lifestyle; this is not always the case. These people end up facing discrimination in all aspects of their daily lives leading them to feelings of deflation and defeat.

Ill fitting T-shirts and jogging trousers are not enough of a façade for some people to hide behind. These people use ‘fat suits’ as a shield to stop what they deem to be unwanted attention or to mask other underlying issues that they don’t want to face. Dressing down is usually enough to deter ‘wannabe’ suitors, but what happens when this is not enough and individuals take it to the extreme?

 Tina Collins, 46, gained weight as a defence mechanism “I had just been through a messy divorce and was left a single mum raising two children. The last thing I needed was added attention from men, so I thought if I gained weight and became less attractive I wouldn’t have to deal with the complications that come with potential suitors.”

As the weight creeps on, the person justifies each kilogram gained with the promise of oneself that it is their last ‘binge; and that they will address the issue the next day, week or month. Like an addiction the feeling of gratification is short-lived as the subsequent guilt resulting in a vicious circle where comfort eating appears to be the only way to feel good again.

Comfort eating plays a major part in gaining weight; when you have a bad day or have been under pressure you tend to eat the foods that make you feel better. Using a chat room ( ) created for comfort eaters to support themselves, I found that many of the reasons people comfort eat can be out of boredom or pressure. One of the anonymous members confessed that she comfort eats to feel better, even for a little while; admitting that she felt guilty afterwards for succumbing to her cravings.

Comfort eating is recognised by the medical profession; certain foods are known to stimulate the release of Serotonin. This chemical is known as the ‘feel-good’ factor, anti depressants are used to stimulate the same chemical. Serotonin is found mainly in carbohydrate based foods such as pasta, potatoes and bread; all the foods traditionally associated with comfort eating. Brain food website states that

“Serotonin (or 5-HT) usually inhibits and is involved in arousal and sleep, mood, appetite and sensitivity. However, it is also excitatory and is part of the brain’s reward system producing feelings of pleasure.

(Available at: , Accessed: 04.03.2010)

 Many people who comfort eat or chose to gain weight have deep set issues that need to be addressed before they can start choosing a healthy lifestyle. Those who I spoke to in the chat rooms did not appear to have a problem with being big; they just wanted to ensure that they were healthy. Being ‘plus size’ is not the issue that needs to be addressed; it’s the reasons behind the weight gain and trying to let people have a healthy lifestyle no matter what they weigh.


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