I am a therapist who tries to help people reach their varied goals. A person’s body weight is a topic frequently discussed in counseling.  How you view your body has much to do with how you feel about yourself in general and, consequently, how you behave.

Two factors particularly affect eating habits.  One is the age and stage of your life.  The other is what is going on with you emotionally.  A brief recount of each based on stereotypical behavior of many people follows.

Traditionally in our society women are most in the spotlight relative to weight.  Such a focused light, especially through media presentations, is not a particularly good thing.  Unhealthy and unrealistic role models and messages are highlighted. Anyhow, here are some typical scenarios:

FEMALE GENDER:

1. Young girls: These girls weight are genetically oriented.  After that comes the parenting impact.  Do parents let the girls sit in front of the television munching on unhealthy foods?  Is age appropriate exercise pushed? What about the bedtime snack?  What kind of role model is Mom? Dad?

2. Teenage girls:  This group really faces a tough challenge! Puberty, media expectations, competition with other girls, and wanting male attention present much pressure on these girls. Out of balance reactions often occur during this time.  Depending on what is going on in the family and at school the extremes of fanatical anorexia/bulimia or retreat into fat can result. Understanding, support, and perhaps counseling is important for the over-reactive behavior choice.

3. Post high school: Young ladies off on their own.  Weight gain often takes place for a number of reasons. College girls often binge on snacks, pizza, and beer.  Those in the labor force are often short on money and buy cheap unhealthy food.

4. Late twenties and thirties: if single, probably svelte — still looking for Mr. Right.

5. Marriage: Good marriage, tend to stay in shape, helps if husband does also.  Poor marriage, weight often goes up.

6. Pregnant: Weight gain with baby.  Often there is difficulty in getting the after baby weight off.  Possible reasons are being tired, unmotivated, not wanting any more sex, having a lazy husband, etc...

7. Divorce: Weight usually goes down — back in the hunt again.

8. Middle age: Gravity pull, lack of exercise, slower metabolism, giving up, lousy marriage are some of the factors for weight gain.

9. Old age: who gives a damn anymore! Some do.

MALE GENDER:

1. Young boys: pretty much the same as girls.  Usually more exercise and less playing with dolls.

2. Teenage boys: Depends on being a geek or a jock.  Testosterone tumult often leads to bulking up to impress the girls and/or to make the team.  Self esteem during these challenging years tends to be reflected in weight management.

3. Post high school: Both college guys and labor force entrants tend to chub up with plenty of beer and pizza in their diet.  Plus they tend to not exercise much.

4. Late twenties and thirties: Married men in good marriages tend to be active and exercise. Bad marriage has him on the couch, drinking too much; beer belly is a way of life. Single men usually are becoming more aware that they need to put in more effort to stay trim.  Some succeed, others continue in their slothful life style.

5. Mid life: Men facing mid life crisis/transition time tend to really get into weight management and exercise or, if depressed will drink more and eat comfort food. Hair loss, limping libido, and gravity pull get attention.

6.Old age: who gives a damn anymore!  Some do.

Emotionally, if you are anxious or sad, you tend to eat more – comfort and pleasure foods offer a short term “fix.” Plus, booze intake usually goes up.

Basically it comes down to this: if you feel good about yourself you will do everything you can to stay fit, exercise, and your weight will be the best it can be for your given situation. Notice, I said how you FEEL about yourself.  Emotions, the feeling portion of the brain, are probably the most potent factor relative to healthy eating.

Major exceptions to the statement about emotional eating are the factors of illness, medications, and physical disability.  These issues often make it difficult to keep weight off.  Since you do not know what a person’s situation is, it is advisable to not judge another for how they look – whether it be about weight or any other factor.  “Judge not, less you be judged”.

Hope this focus on healthy weight management is helpful! Where are you on the above dimensions? Fit?

— Dr. Stathas is a Counseling Psychologist, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, in the Lake Oconee area. He is the Founder of the Stathas Life Development Center. He can be reached at 706-473-1780. Email:Stathas@plantationcable.net. Web site: drstathas.googlepages.com. Blog: drstathas.com

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