Thursday, August 9, 2012

... the psychology of obesity and eating disorders, therapy and treatment in the philippines ... (life coach, counselor, psychotherapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, quezon city, manila)

dessa jimenez of abs-cbn's cheche lazaro presents asked me to share a bit of what i know about the psychology of obesity.

to start with, people have both positive and negative impressions of obese people.  on the positive side, obese people are considered jolly or masayahin like sta. clause, cute and huggable like a giant teddy bear, wealthy like donya buding or donya delilah (for those of you coming from the generation who watched John & Marsha), or authoritative like a sumo wrestler or mafia godfather.  on the negative side, obese people are treated as the butt of jokes, perceived as slow and lazy, and at worst, considered to be lacking in self-control and discipline.  

some people are triggered to eat by positive emotions such as when they feel happy, when they want to celebrate or reward themselves, when they relax in front of the tv or computer, or when they socialize.  others  are triggered to eat by negative emotions such as boredom, sadness, loneliness, worry, anger, frustration, or stress.  others eat not because of their emotional state, but simply because they enjoy the taste of food.

for those driven to eat because of negative emotions, their vicious cycle goes like this:  negative emotion --> overeating (aka comfort eating/ mindless eating) --> weight gain --> frustration, disappointment, and other negative emotions

obese people are generally self-conscious, especially of their tummy, thighs, neck and chin.  they may have poor body image and thus suffer from low self-esteem.  obese people are also prone to major depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse (substances that increase metabolism. diuretics, laxatives), and bulimia nervosa wherein they purge what they've just eaten.  

practically all aspects of life are affected by their obesity.  for instance, they may suffer discrimination at work. they can't enjoy or engage in activities which most people take for granted (e.g., riding jeepneys or buses, entering CR cubicles, going to movies, or buying clothes off the rack).  obese people who are single get worried that they might not be able to find a lifetime partner. and for the obese people who are in relationship, even their sex lives suffer.  for instance, they are afraid that they might crush their partner, that they can't enjoy the sexual acrobatics of slimmer people, or that they might kill the sex urge of their partner as soon as they get naked.

short of bariatric surgery, what obese people need is a strategic plan.  obese people must first of all identify their specific foods of abuse.  contrary to popular belief, it's not junk food that is the primary culprit for obesity but delicious ulam (e.g., kaldereta, kare-kare, crispy pata, lechon, fried chicken with gravy, etc.) which makes them eat tons of rice.  these foods of abuse must be avoided at all cost.  obese people must also identify the situations (family gatherings, socials, watching tv, etc.) and the time of day (big breakfast or lunch, the midnight meal) that make them vulnerable to overeating.  and lastly, they need to correct the attitudes that promote overeating (e.g. 'i must eat all the left-over food of my family and friends because people in africa are dying of starvation.')

as a final word, here's my tip for you:  when you feel like eating when you shouldn't, just drink cold water, or suck on strongly mentholated sugarless candy, or try extra strong fisherman's wharf lozenges.  these will surely eradicate your food craving.

oh, and one more thing- rather than be plainly slim or thin, the greater goal for obese and non-obese people alike is to BE HEALTHY!