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What Is Your Obesity Protecting You From?

This guest article from YourTango was written by Mary Jo Rapini.

The recent statistics from the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) has reported that about one-third (33.8%) of U.S. adults are obese. That number rises every day, and keeping up with it is more difficult than keeping up with your stocks. I work with the finest bariatric surgeons in the U.S. They are dedicated to helping their patients lose weight in an effort to thwart diseases, and minimize current disease progression. I also run several 12-step food addiction groups in the city of Houston and online in many cities.

I talk to morbidly obese patients everyday. I teach them, counsel them, eat with them, and spend endless hours reading their journals. These patients have a story to tell, but we aren’t listening and we continue asking the wrong questions.

6 Comments to
What Is Your Obesity Protecting You From?

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  1. Hello there,
    obese are an accepted target, similar to saying that poor and unemployed deserve to be poor and unemployed because they want to be and must therefore be regulated because they are too stupid to regulate themselves. I would like to think that the the psychological community would be invited to put in an opinion, but that seems unlikely.

  2. This blog entry rings true to me. And while I’ve applied this logic to other unhealther behaviors, I’ve never applied it to my eating habits. I think once I figure out how I benefit from overeating, I’ll be able to analyze better whether I want to continue this behavior, or would rather replace it with another behavior that has fewer negative, long term effects. Thanks for posting!

  3. Yourtango,

    I wouldn’t be me and would fail my “crusade” to put all medical professionals to task that use the term or phrase, “(pick your topic) is genetic”. If you truly want to help you patients you need to accept the fact that to date, there is no genetic link. It seems that many things that seem “genetic” are simply passed (learned if you will) from being the member of the same family. To believe that an epidemic such as obesity is “genetic” rejects the rational thought that we have evolved to the species that we have. An organism that could create so many dysfunction would never have stood the test of time. Further, it rejects Freud argument (made in “Ego and th Id” i believe) that the mind seeks to blame external or uncontrollable forces for its faults.

    There is no “fat” gene. Nothing that would stand up to the scientific method has ever been discovered. Likewise, you touch upon the more conclusive proof that the whole thing is driven by environmental issues when you point out the sexual abuse link. I wonder how many patients are on SSRI/ SNRIs. I have seen 4 people placed on these drug grow to morbidly obese in the course of 2 years. And why not. Put them on a drug that diminishes the influence of the super ego, and then everybody stands around scratching their heads when the patient can’t stop catering to their Ids.

    Help your patients. Turn to them and say, “If we are going to get the weight off, we are going to have to slay some demons. This will require a lot of emotional pain. It will require you to relearn many things you believe as truth. And it will require you to rise above your anxiety.”

  4. To give you a quick rundown: i have a sister, actually 1/2 sister, and she had the body type of our mother, and most of mom’s family-large, tall, strongly built men and women. My sister, lets call her Susie, is 6’1″, and probably over 500lbs. She is also a licensed psychologist which makes all this even stranger, but she gained weight immediately upon entering pre-school 50 yrs when our mom had to go back to work when marriage #2 broke up.

    You can see the pictures of us on 1st day of pre-school, and then at the xmas party she is a little butterball, stuck wearing an old outfit of mine, since i was older but not that heavy, (just like she’d been up to that point), the outfit just accentuates the weight she gained. And needless to say, she has been one very tall, very large girl ever since. I did not stay a skinny minnie-childbearing, and age, and menopause, and chemo-after a double mastectomy and a lot of steroids to fend off side-effects, i am just losing a lot of weight I put on over the past decade. But still, my peak weight was abt 260lbs, on a strongly built 5’4″ frame-chunky but not as big as most of our relatives.

    Lately though-Susie has been hell bent on telling me how i am a bad sister for reminding her (gently-I promise, it was gently) that losing some weight would help her condition. She’s virtually wheelchair bound, has deteriorating bones, and has had both knees replaced twice! She is also 3 years younger than me-and is an ex smoker!

    Unfortunately, she never married, which causes her untold sadness, but she’s had friends and a career, but lost her job due to constant issues with the bones over the last few years. She is now on disability, and depressed.

    What concerns me most is that she seems bent on blaming me, for her woes. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer-which has killed 8 women in our family, she accused me of being pessimistic for asking her to get a mammo-something I asked every female friend of mine. For nearly 30 yrs, i never ever mentioned weight loss-for fear of getting my head bitten off-despite the fact that i would have loved for her to get a good grip on her weight so she could enjoy life more.

    Lately, she tells me how i treat her like a child-for ‘disagreeing’ with her. In my mind, it’s because she is an adult that i don’t have to pretend i agree with each and every word that comes out of her mouth. It seems like up is down, and vice versa. This week’s conversation left me again being blamed for NOT asking if she lost weight-I explained, I deliberately never ask that over the years then or now, because it’s like asking a jobless person endlessly if they found a job! Or asking an alcoholic if they stopped drinking, why would anyone expect the answer to be yes, when after 50 + yrs the answer was no??

    Susie said I expect the worst of her, and claims she lost 50 lbs. I accept that, am glad for her, but afterwards, stepping back from that conversation, i think it was a lie. Later I explained I’d lost 37 lbs over the last several months, and added how good it felt etc, but her 50 lbs had no other commentary-such as it was ‘hard’, to do, or it felt good, or the privation wasn’t as hard as she thought it would be. Nothing-no comment, i think……….looking back on it, it was just something once again, to say, I am a bad sister for NOT asking or expecting to have lost weight.

    She didn’t bother to lose weight before the first knee replacements, or the second almost 2 yrs ago. So why would i reasonably expect a big change?

    What I am probably taking too long to say is this: The whole conversation, like so many in the past, seem so incredibly juvenile. I hate to admit it but it occurs to me that yes, i know food really isn’t the issue when you are that much overweight, but i think it is, maybe you can comment on this- I think it may be a question of being stuck in a very juvenile frame of mind-literally.

    One of the comments she has made for years, 40 yrs now, is ……..” I know things too” !! I am constantly amazed that a women with multiple degrees is saying that to a sister, who spent her life taking care of a mentally retarded child, and never been much more than a housewife. Of course she knows things-why does she have a need to say this over and over?? I promise i am not a know it all……..I give people very wide latitude.

    Our mother is long gone now, but she often said we were just different, and I shouldn’t let her upset me. They’re relationship wasn’t ideal, my mother saw herself and her weight issues in Susie, I get it, but i am not to blame for her choices. I understand projection (generally) but, it seems if you have completely ruined your health and mobility, you might want to try to stop blaming your only sister?

    Bottom line—Do you think there is any hope for us?

    • June,
      There is always hope. Like the article said though, you have to ask yourself “What am I gaining from this” I don’t know if this was just a bad day, but what I hear from your comments are a person who wants to be understood, not necessarily one who wants to understand. We all have our “stuff”, our jealousies, insecurities, opinions, but to understand someone else’s stuff we have to try to see it from their shoes not our own. Forgiveness is the answer for you, we cant change anyone but our self, and so if you really want to solve it you are going to have to look at your sister for who she is completely, good and bad, and not necessarily agree with her, but just decide that it is ok and just love her. We mirror the people in our lives so she probably feels very similar to you, and just doesn’t know how to cross that bridge either. Remember though, your mother is gone, other family members are gone, you and her are here right now, and you have and need each other. don’t let silly disagreements ruin the time you have with each other, someday she may be gone. We all make our choices, and the consequences teach us what we apparently need to learn. Forgive her for her poor choices, and yourself, see what you have gained from them, that will give you understanding, and freedom to forgive.
      Good luck, and may God be with you.
      Ps I have 3 sisters, so I completely understand the struggle, but love really is the answer :)

  5. I am glad I found this. I have been praying for help to lose weight and I feel as though God has lead me to this article. I am 21 years old, female, 5’9 and weigh 280 pounds. I have always been fat. I got made fun of badly in school. People would tell me to just stop eating, but I could not. It was like a compulsion I had. If I didn’t eat, I felt anxiety and as if I were being deprived somehow. Even as a child I was like this, but not aware of it. I would daydream about food at school. Chocolate houses and ramen soup rivers. I still do this but try not to. I started getting plump at age 6 and 7 but probably was not classified as obese until 8 or 9.

    That’s all in the past, though. I wonder why I started eating so much in the first place. My family ate junk. Cheap generic cheese and cereal and pizza from Walmart, loads of ice cream and fast food, and spam and ramen. My grandparents were poor from farmer families from Alabama. They dropped out of school after 7th grade and my grandmother had seven kids all with different men. One of them molested my mother and her sister (my aunt) when they were little but they never got fat. I ate because of poverty and unhealthy food, stress from loads of family problems, bad bullying, bad living conditions.

    However I had to ask myself these questions…what am I shielding myself from with my obesity? The answer is that I don’t want attention from men. I can’t stand the thought of flirting, being hit or cat called or being viewed as sexually desirable. I have been told that I have a very pretty face and that if I lost weight I would be pretty. I don’t know why I fear this so much. Being noticed, being approached, being viewed as competition by other females or a potential mate for males. I usually dress plainly and avoid makeup for these reasons as well, to not be noticed.

    I don’t know if I was molested or not. My step brother tried to poke and press on my privates when I was six. And from what I can remember I’ve been masturbating since age five. I did it during nap time in kindergarten with other girls. But I was eight pounds as a baby and had a little baby fat before I started packing on the pounds. I was never skinny, ever, and thought that I just have a strong appetite and like to eat. But then why am I so afraid of male attention or any attention for that matter? In the past, in high school, I had a few instances with weirdos sexually harassing me and grown men out in public staring and smiling at me, even though I am fat, and this gave me crippling anxiety for days. I don’t understand women who like attention because I hate it.

    I have never had a boyfriend, kissed , had sex, or even been on a date and I am 21 years old.



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