Weight & Your Love Life

Before I get into the problems weight can create in someone’s love-life I want to register a personal opinion. I’ve met a few well adjusted heavy people over the years and continue to do so. These beautiful people are heavy and it has become part of a personality they wear as well as anyone else’s. One important complication is our culture’s opinion about extra weight.

Unreasonable expectations about size can add additional  pressures and conflicts in a person’s efforts to live with him or herself. The standards our culture creates for what is beautiful and what is not are imposed regardless of the unique individual conditions of a person’s body. This difficulty alone can cause a lot of unhappiness and low self-esteem.

How other people feel about your weight is an important prerequisite of how you will feel about your weight until you liberate yourself from public opinion. The trouble is we all start out in life vulnerable to the opinions of others in our community. Individuality is easily stifled in response to these social conditions. Liberating yourself from public opinion means you come to terms with who you are from the inside out (as opposed to the social outside in).

Admittedly, easier to say than do, but thankfully not impossible with the right guidance. For those of you interested in coming to terms with being heavy regardless of the reason why, this will probably be your avenue of personal growth and psychological development. You would have to be able to desensitize yourself against the ignorance and projected judgment of of small minded people. You would have to remind yourself that people who attack you critically for being heavy are struggling with their own form of psychological sickness.

Heaviness can scare people for a whole host of different reasons. But your biggest concern should be to survive this sort of thing and not allow it to retard your interest in relationships and an active life. I mention this first because negative judgment and criticism can sometimes deter a person from living comfortably in the world. In this case we’re thinking primarily about the love-life world.

If the goal to lose weight is your personal choice, you’ll need to know a few things about yourself. Be careful of approaches to weight loss that are critical and judgmental. Your initial objective is to strengthen your sense of yourself as a person. This strengthening of yourself as an individual regardless of weight will be your greatest resource in your efforts to change your weight. Let me say this again.

Your belief in yourself as a person, meaning you are naturally a good person with something to offer, has to be brought back or revealed to you for the very first time. It is the foundation upon which your efforts to transform yourself physically and psychologically will rest. I suggest you start by teasing apart your feelings about yourself as a person from weight. Simply put, you are not your weight.

Weight is just a condition of life and it can be changed. You are much much more than your weight. By the way, this sort of thing should continue beyond your efforts to change your weight. Keeping a solid sense of yourself inside that cannot be easily damaged by negative people or conditions of life is a life long practice to be sure.

OK, now let’s think about reasons or causes. This part is largely speculative so if the proverbial shoe fits wear it, if it doesn’t don’t. Why does the weight exist? I’ve met people over the years that got scared of life and what was happening in that life so they learned how to hide. In fact, they got real good at it. For them, gaining weight became one of several methods of hiding. For some individuals the extra ‘padding’ was a way of diminishing any unwanted sexual attraction.

This often occurs when the sexual attraction they experienced earlier in life was unwanted and traumatic. If it occurred in childhood or adolescence the traumatic impact was even stronger. So diminishing sex appeal through weight gain is in effect a method self-protection. The problem is, once you get used to doing this kind of thing, it’s hard to convince the scared part of you to let it go when you don’t need it anymore. Related to this are people whose weight gain is a form of protection against the aftereffects of the physical trauma they experienced earlier in life. Again the idea of physical padding to protect oneself is a part of this.

I worked with an extremely obese man once who helped me understand that his weight was an ‘identification’ with his beloved mother who died a number of years before. She was heavy and food became their way of communing with each other. When she died he expressed his unresolved grief and loss by gaining weight and recreating the emotional conditions of their relationship in any way he could involving food.

Now there is a lot of contemporary interest in the idea of a food addiction. Where excessive weight gain is the consequence of a bad eating habit. Borrowing from what we know about the psychological effects of drug addiction, for example, food could have a sedative or numbing effect on a person or simply distract or absorb other more painful emotions like grief, sadness, loss, or even anger.

A common complication of weight loss can be the difficult task of having to re-experience these emotions once the weight starts coming off. This can be a good reason to get some kind of therapeutic help or support where you can communicate and understand feelings, and develop a tolerance and understanding for whatever emotions start emerging during a course of weight loss.

I remember a few heavy people who, apart from any other reason or cause for their obesity, wanted to experience their spouse’s or partner’s love despite their weight. In a few instances this became a road block to weight loss because they could not relinquish this demand. My guess is, the need for love we all possess was at work trying to undo the losses of past love-life disappointment. If I can feel loved for who I am at this moment in time maybe I will have successfully redressed the absence of love earlier in my life?

Good try, but it’s not possible because of the way we’re built. Childhood happens once and that’s it. Lingering there because things didn’t go the way you needed them to can effectively stop you from growing for a lifetime. The more reliable option is to grieve the loss of love earlier in life, then move on to a repair of how you feel about yourself now, while enjoying the positive effects that repair has on your current adult love-life.

Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan


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Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

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  1. sadia on June 20, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Great blog. Point #2 works not just in weight loss but in all asetcps of life. Have a dream or ultimate goal but break it down into smaller goals so you achieve all the way not just at the end.

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