Annette Nay, PhD

Article Index

Mental Health
Spouse & Date Abuse
Coping With Assault
Emotional Trauma
Health and Physical Fitness
Weight Control
Long-Term Illness
Multiple Sclerosis
Emotional Trauma
Church Leadership
Scout Leadership
Stories With A Point
National Heritage

Understanding the Emotional Aspects of Weight-Loss
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, 1982).

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 Weight-Loss
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 (Peterson, 1993).

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 & Stunkard, 1987).

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, 1988).

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, 1988).

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, 1988).

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, 1988).

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, 1988).

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 (Hollis, 1985).

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, 1988).

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, 1988).

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.


Minirth, F., Meier, P., Hemfelt, R., Sneed, S., & Hawkins, D. (1991). Love hunger.

Fawcett Columbine, NY: Ballantine Books.

Nakken, C. (1988). The addictive personality. U.S.: Hazelden Foundation.

Sheppard, K. (1993) Food addiction. (2nd ed.). Dearfield Beach, FL: .Heath Communication, Inc.

Wadden, T. A. & Stunkard, A.J. (1987). Psychopathology and obesity. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 499, 55-65.

Wolman, B. B. (1982). Psychological aspects of obesity: A handbook. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.: NY.

How To Get Your Child To Do What You Ask How To Get Your Child To Do What You Ask
by Annette Nay, PhD

Dr Nay's eBook is an informative parenting tool every parent should have to make the job of parenting easier and more effective.
Click the image for more information.


About Me
My Publications
Instant Counselor
Recommended Reading
Contact Me

Google Search

This Website

Safe Surf Rated

ICRA Rated