Childhood trauma can have long-lasting effects on adults, including increased risk for mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, as well as physical health problems such as obesity and heart disease. Take the following hypothetical scenario as an example:
As a child, Jane’s home life was difficult for a number of reasons, and she always turned to food for comfort whenever she felt upset or stressed. This habit followed her into adulthood, and wasn’t helped by a college boyfriend that belittled her for her weight. By the time she met her husband, John, she had struggled with her weight and self-image for years.
John also had a history of using food as a way to cope with the emotional pain of his own childhood trauma, having spent years in and out of foster care after the loss of his mother in an accident. Together, Jane and John found themselves trapped in a cycle of emotional eating that was both difficult to break and damaging to their health.
Determined to break free from this cycle and improve their health, Jane and John sought help from a physician who specializes in weight loss as well as a therapist who helps individuals overcome emotional eating. With the support of their doctor and therapist, they were able to identify the root causes of their emotional eating and develop healthier coping mechanisms.
Through a combination of therapy, diet, and exercise, Jane and John were able to overcome their emotional eating habits and achieve their weight loss goals. Today, they are happier and healthier than ever before, and they are grateful to have found the support and guidance they needed to make lasting changes in their lives.
While this is a fictional story, it mirrors real life for many Americans. According to research, there are several psychological factors that can arise from childhood trauma and impact an individual’s ability to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. These factors include:
- Emotional eating: Emotional eating is the habit of using food to cope with feeling overwhelmed, negative emotions or stress. This can lead to overeating and weight gain.
- Feeling worthless: It can be difficult to stick to a weight loss plan if you are demoralized and demotivated. One has to feel to make the necessary changes. Setting clear goals and finding ways to stay motivated can help. Likewise, a negative body image or self-esteem can make it difficult to stick to a weight loss plan. Focusing on positive self-talk and building self-confidence can help.
- Lack of social support: Having a supportive social network can be a key factor in successful weight loss. Too often people who struggle with weight and feelings of self-worth withdraw from socializing. Surrounding yourself with people who support your goals and encourage healthy behaviors can make a big difference in both your mental and physical health.
- Coping with stress: If you tend to internalize stressful situations rather than putting them into perspective, that buildup of chronic stress can lead to weight gain due to the release of the hormone cortisol, which can increase appetite. Finding healthy ways to manage stress, such as through exercise or relaxation techniques, can be helpful.
In summary, addressing emotional and psychological factors, which may originate in younger years, is an important part of a successful weight loss plan. It is vital to identify any psychological barriers to weight loss and work to overcome them in order to achieve lasting weight loss success.