How do my Emotions Contribute to Weight Gain?

It is well known that people who are depressed, grieving or are simply unhappy can either put on or lose weight. The role of how we feel about ourselves and the world can be an important ingredient to losing excessive weight. How can emotions contribute to physical body weight and why does someone’s emotional landscape become reflected in their body? For those people who are physically affected by emotional ebb and flow, these questions about how emotion affects our physical body is very pertinent.

Emotion is often attached to thought, however it is often felt in our bodies. Long term emotional stress or depression can very well have a physical effect of weight gain. It is as if the heaviness of the emotion is held in the muscles and organs in the body. In Eastern medical traditions, such as in kinesiology and acupuncture, emotional anatomy is well regarded. Emotions are said to sit in body parts and do affect physical manifestations in the body. I find in my work as a psychotherapist, that many people’s physical symptoms fit perfectly with their emotional concerns. Likewise, I also see people’s physical symptomology affecting their emotional experience. It can become a self-perpetuating pattern where the physical and the emotional feed off each other to create full blown psychological and physical conditions.

Emma & Self-Loathing

Emma came to see me about her depression. She said she was feeling down, slobby and had put on so much weight in the last six months. She said she could not sleep well and that she felt lonely and angry most of the time. As we talked, it became clear that the end of her intimate relationship with Tod contributed to her mood and self-image. The relationship ended a year and a half ago, but it was only six months ago when he began a relationship with someone else. When we discussed the quality of that relationship and what it meant to her, it became apparent that Emma had built a great deal of resentment towards Tod over a long time. As she spoke, she began to realise that she had expected him to make up for his mistakes. When he finally found someone else, she realised he was not going turn around and apologise and change his ways.

What was really important however, was the meaning this had about herself. Emma realised that she had come to hate herself because on some level she believed it was her fault that he treated her poorly and never made up for his behaviour. Her self-loathing for his lack of considerate actions and choices had resulted in depression and weight gain. Of course, the physical and emotional cycle spiralled out of control as the increased body weight lead her to hate herself even more. And it stopped her from moving forward and finding a more rewarding intimate relationship.

Emma’s Way Out of Her Bind

In recognising her pattern of self-loathing, increased body weight and depression, and her interpretation of the events that underlay her pattern, Emma began to consciously turn it around. When she explored the pattern and gained clarity of herself, her beliefs and attitudes shifted. She realised that Tod’s actions were an effect of his own patterns and were not actually about her. She learnt that she could hold a sense of self that was not dependent on how others treated her. She also learnt that she could create an environment of self-love in her life and challenge the beliefs that lead her to think she was worthless or not good enough for love.

Emma’s journey in therapy was not a quick one but it was rewarding!  As she learnt healthy ways of thinking, feeling and actions that honoured herself and her body, her depression lifted over time. Likewise, her body weight decreased as she became increasingly happy about herself and her life and increased exercise and maintained a healthy diet.  The key here was that she did not try to enforce a diet and exercise regime on top of her self-loathing and depression. Rather she lovingly shifted bad eating and exercise habits with her increased self-esteem and self-efficacy from changing the ways she perceived herself in the relationship with Tod. Therefore the changes she made were more permanent life style changes that reflected and her happy sense of self.

The Emotional Dimension of Weight Gain

The emotional dimension of weight gain and lose is often underestimated. Sometimes where there are stubborn self-defeating patterns when people are trying to lose weight, the emotional landscape is an essential aspect to understand and overcome. There may also be other physical conditions attached to the intra-personal dynamic such as adrenal or thyroid problems, but the emotional aspects are still important.

Have you ever realised the emotional aspect of weight gain?

I would love to hear your experiences and questions

[Disclaimer. All stories used in this blog are fictional characters based on the wisdom I gain from working with clients. No character in this blog is an actual person or a client]


12 Responses to “How do my Emotions Contribute to Weight Gain?”

  • Thanks for the great blog!! I believe 99.9% of weight problems are emotionally linked, absolutely!!

  • Enjoyed the read. For me I have found that every time I tend to put on weight I am bored with my life busy or not. However once I have become aware of this and get back in the flow the weight seems to reduce to a comfortable level.

    • Hi Gavin, thank you! Again, another insightful comment! I agree, when we are bored or not in alignment with ourselves and our purpose, we tend to stagnate and put on weight.

      Have a fantastic day

  • Amy:

    Beautifully written Vanessa :-) Emotional eating is the genetic/emotional inheritance of my family so I know it so intimately. Have also learned over time that you don’t lose weight to feel self-love, you learn self-love and the weight loss comes as you make choices that are good for you because you believe that you’re worth it. Trying to pin point the cause of self-loathing to move through it is the difficult bit. :-)
    Many blessings to you,
    Amy :-)

    • Hi Amy, great comment! You are so right that increasing self love ad self value comes first, when we push diets on ourselves when we are not in a space of self value we tend to feel controlled and rebel… by eventually putting on more weight. Self love comes first!

      You are also right that it can be challenging to pin point the cause of self loathing. I my experience combination of psychotherapy and energy healing can work. There would be more for Emma than the recent experiences in her self loathing. There would also be conditioned patterns from childhood and possibly family patterns as you have described above.

      Thank you for your great comment
      Lots of love

  • Great blog Vanessa. As a practitioner of several alternative healing modalities, it is common for the body to hold the emotional trauma and memory of an event long after the event have been processed. A little like a stain on a shirt, even after washing it, it can still be seen, even though technically the shirt is clean. If people are finding it difficult to shift the weight, even after psychotherapy etc. sometimes a session that works on the energy can assist. Keep up the great work you are doing with people.

    • Hi Samantha, I totally agree!!! We do hold emotional memories in our body, especially traumatic ones. I find psychotherapy plus energy work does work well. I often refer clients to kinesiologist or other energy practitioners to work in combination with therapy.

      Have a fantastic day

  • HI Vanessa, great post and so, so, so true. Most of my life has been an emotional roller coaster ride due to the beliefs I had about body imgae. I had a deep belief that in order to be accepted it was necessary to be thin. In fact I just posted a blog about that journey 2 minutes ago. Thank you for your insight on this topic. I truly believe that low self esteem and emotions are at the core of almost all weight problems.

    Health and Happiness Tracey

    • Hi Tracey, thank you for your comment! I agree, our emotional landscape has so much influence of our body weight. Ill have a look at your blog soon… I’m really loving your book “The Happy Mind Formula”!

      Have a fantastic day

  • Jan:

    Great post Vanessa, thankyou. The systems within our bodies are so connected.
    Balance and understanding is a strong key to getting the most out of life.

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