Understanding the Emotional Aspects
Annette Nay, MS
Copyright © 1997
There are emotional reasons individuals eat when they are not hungry.
Some use food as a defense mechanism to stop unwanted feelings. Food is
used as a tool to overcome feelings of boredom, worry, guilt, sadness,
and loneliness. Eating helps to procrastinate the beginning of a job one
does not want to do. Some overeat because they see it as shameful to
throw food away. Some people reason that when they are thin they cannot
be passive but must face their fears. Some feel inferior and eat to feel
secure. Some choose obesity as a defense to stop physical or sexual
abuse. This is especially so with young girls (Wolman, 1982).
Covering up revenge or anger is another reason some becoming
overweight. For example, if a husband wants his wife to be pregnant and
she does not, consciously or unconsciously she may choose
characteristics that cause her to become unappealing to her husband.
Obesity and poor hygiene are two effective ways to do this (Wolman,
Using food to find happiness, peace of mind, and/or gain control in
one's life is the beginning of addiction. Food addiction causes eventual
withdrawal from society, friends, loved ones, and God (Nakken, 1988).
While under the influence of addiction overweight or obese individuals
may hide stores of food or eat in concealment to hide their addiction
from others (Wolman, 1982; Nakken, 1988).
Many addictions come from bottling feelings inside and covering them
up with addictive substances. Men have been taught to hold back their
emotions to prove they are men. They have sought different ways to cover
up their feelings. Food is one of many addictions men have used to do
this. Even more frequently used is alcohol (Sheppard, 1993).
Women are generally the ones who choose to cover feelings and other
emotions with food addiction. (Sheppard, 1993). On the average there are
nine women for every man with a food addiction. The group with the
highest risk of food addiction is adolescence. This is because the
adolescent receives a lot of pressure from peers about his or her body
image (Wadden & Stunkard, 1987).
Understanding the Social Aspects of
Annette Nay, MS
Copyright © 1997
From its inception our country's life, economy, and trade was based
on food. Our country has a propensity towards obesity because of its
continual obsession with food, not only at this present time but
throughout the historical growth of our country. It began with our
agricultural beginnings and continued throughout the Industrial
Revolution to our present day (Peterson, 1993; Jacobs, 1969).
In the beginning our colonies had to produce enough food to last
through each winter. The obsession with food was all encompassing during
this period. The planting and caring of crops was the main activity from
sun up to sun down. If the crops were not successful there was a real
chance that whole families or the colony would starve to death
(Peterson, 1993; Jacobs, 1969).
One of the main reasons the Industrial Revolution was so important
was it provided machinery that could speed up the planting, harvesting,
and packaging of food. Farmers could plant crops in at a shorter time.
This gave more time to plant more crops. This provided an excess farmers
were able to sell to others. Excess crops provided extra cash to
purchase items they could not have had otherwise. The modeling of this
fixation with food continued on from one generation to another
With the 1900's came many innovations to speed up production of all
kinds of goods (Peterson, 1993; Jacobs, 1969). With this occurrence came
the development of different services, many of which dealt with the
production of fast foods (Nay, 1998; Peterson, 1993). Innovations
provided extra time and an excess of products. This gave Americans
expendable income for leisure activities and extra services they
previously could not afford or was not available before. With extra
money they could afford luxuries such as dining out and television sets
(Peterson, 1993; Jacobs, 1969).
Watching television became one of our nation's leisure choices. The
movies are on television to attract people to watch the advertisements.
Advertisements shape our images, values, and tell us what normalcy
should be. They have a great impact on us and our socialization. The
average individual sees 1500 ads. This averages out to one and one-half
years of television commercials (Kilborne, 1987).
We have been continually brainwashed by advertisements to buy more
processed or fast foods as we watch television (Kilborne, 1987).
Advertising has lead us to expecting huge servings, and all-you-can-eat
specials. Whenever there is a gathering of people food is generally
expected to be served (Cooper & Cooper, 1982).
Each culture and generation decide what is considered overweight as
obese. Our country is not only obsessed with food but they obsessed with
being slim too (Kilborne, 1987). Our country also has a double standard.
It is all right for men to be slightly obese but not women (Wadden &
Advertising tells us that our image should be youthful, slim, and
attractive. Some tend to feel ashamed and/or guilty when they do fit
this image. Eighty percent of the women polled on a college campus felt
they were overweight. Advertising would have us believe that the right
product can meet our deepest needs, fulfill our desires, and magically
solve our problems (Kilborne, 1987). These are erroneous thought
patterns of the food addict (Sheppard, 1993).
In advertising, parts of the human body are focused upon individually
for advertising purposes. These parts are dehumanized and can be used in
any fashion needed for the ad, since they are not really perceived as
parts of a human being (Kilborne, 1987). This teaches us
objectification, a major tool in addiction (Sheppard, 1993).
We have twisted attitudes towards gluttony and being obese or
overweight because of our idealism of slimness (Sheppard, 1993; Kilborne,
1987; Wadden & Stunkard, 1987). We forgive gluttony as long as one does
not become overweight of obese (Minerth et al, 1991). Those who become
morbidly obese are shunned by others, and ultimately hated by themselves
(Minerth et al, 1991; Nakken, 1988). When people think of general
characteristics of successful people they generally think of good looks
and slimness (Kilborne, 1987).
Our country sees obese people as bad and immoral. Some think they
have a character flaw (Wolman, 1982). Our country including many
professionals look at those who are having as a lack of discipline
(Brandon, 1991). These points of view allow many individuals to feel
justified in their prejudice against those who are obese (Wolman, 1982).
Overweight people deal with prejudice in many ways. They have higher
insurance rates, employment refused, and snide comments made to them
from clerks and total strangers. Seating is difficult and often more
costly on public transportation. Attractive clothes are not available at
reasonable prices. Overweight people have a poor chance in gaining
entrance to prestigious colleges and universities. They have very few
dates, if any (Wolman, 1982).
Our country has values which support and predispose people to
addiction. Being number one tends to be a very important to us. As a
result we teach others to watch out for themselves and do what must be
done to be number one. People do not worry about stepping on others to
get where they want to go. We attach shame to those who are not number
one. This shame runs the gamut from subtlety to blatantness. Shamed
individuals sometimes seek solace from unhealthy sources, like food, and
indulge in one or more addictions (Nakken, 1988).
Addiction causes those who are addicted to uses others to get what s/he
needs to carry on the addiction. This is a form of objectification (Nakken,
Our cities offer little or no close relationships. Since we have such
a mobile society we realize that sooner or later we will move for better
job opportunities or way of life. Moving means leaving friendships
behind. Most have learned that leaving people to whom they are close
causes pain, so many stay anonymous instead of forming close
relationships. Many relationships that are formed are those of
convenience and are easily abandoned. This type of attitude offers a
sanctuary to those who are addicted. Personal relationships interferes
with the relationship the addicted person has with his or her chosen
substance of abuse. In this environment individuals become anonymous (Nakken,
Our country's leaders think little of each individual personally when
they commit of thousands of young men to each of our wars and think of
them as expendable numbers. In this way we have become a disposable
society. Those who morn the loss of loved ones tend to cope by numbing
their feelings in some way. Abuse of a substance is a likely choice (Nakken,
Another value of our country shows our relationship with objects.
Those who have more are held in higher esteem. This leads us to believe
that more is better. Excesses are the way of the addict. Addicted
individuals use excessive control, acting-out, and isolation (Nakken,
Today, we have drugs for just about any ache or pain. Repeatedly, in
television ads we are told we do not have to suffer, just medicate and
feel better. When an individual chooses to abuse food to feel better s/he
has already been set up to believe it is all right to do so (Nakken,
Parents have a tendency to encourage children to eat when they are
not hungry. Children are fed to keep children are them quiet. Children
are put to sleep with food. Screaming babies get a bottle immediately.
Screaming or bothersome youngsters get treats to quiet them or keep them
busy. Rules requiring a child to finish everything on his/her plate may
cause gluttony, obesity, and addiction. Food is used as a substitute for
love. Chocolates or food baskets are sent to loved ones as a token of
love. Each of these things sets the child up to accept addiction more
readily (Nakken, 1988). Being overweight is a family affair. The way you
feel about food, the way you eat, and the reasons for eating have been
socialized into your being by the basic unit of society, your family
With so many people being afflicted by food addiction and other types
of addictions, an ever enlarging part of our country's people are
addicted or live with those who are addicted. Families with addicted
members have a greater chance of addiction due to the continual role
modeling of addictive thoughts, values, and behaviors. The members of
the family that live with addicted people have a greater chance that
other members of the family will also turn to addiction (Nakken, 1988).
Addiction causes each individual in the family to decided how each
will deal with the addict. Each members actively chooses codependency,
food abuse or addiction. The roles of the addictive parent and the child
are not normal ones. There is a shift in responsibility from the parents
to the children. When the addicted individuals act-out the children are
the parents (Sheppard, 1993; Nakken, 1988).
The black moods which tend to follow substance abuse causes the child
to become vigilant in looking for the next signs of addictive behavior
being acted out. Being constantly on the alert develops paranoia. The
addict's children do not trust when things are going well, because thing
never stay that way. This vigilance and the inability to accept well
being at face value carries over into the children's adult lives. They
can not trust in a good relationship with others or their job going
well. Often they will sabotage the relationship or job to relieve the
pressure that continually mounts as they wait for things to go bad (Nakken,
The family of the addictive person lives with insane logic. The
addictive parents destroy himself or herself while the family watches
and acts as nothing were wrong. Family members learn to deny their
healthy responses, learn denial, and other coping skills. The children
are taught to lie constantly and to cover-up the behaviors of the
addictive parent so others will not find out about the addiction (Nakken,
The children are taught to treat others as objects and/or watch as
others are treated this way. They are taught this is the manner in which
they can get what they want. They are taught to keep secrets. All these
things are accepted as normal. This becomes the child's norm. As an
adult this person looks for someone to fill the part opposite himself or
herself to recreate the family picture s/he accepts as normal. Adult
individuals caught up in this problem cannot figure out why they keep
choosing abusive addictive relationships when they cannot stand being
under the pressure of those types of relationships (Nakken, 1988).
Obsession with food permeates almost every part of our society's
thinking. Therefore it would be fair to say that almost everyone is
obsessed and practices addictive thinking about food. This is the
American way of life whether we are considered to be thin or overweight.
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