Written by Irene Rubaum-Keller
Is there a fat personality type? Do overweight people share certain characteristics that contribute to their weight issues?
Studies have looked for similarities in people who battle their weight and have found a few. In general, the healthier the personality, the more successful the person is at losing weight and keeping it off.
The two unhealthy tendencies I see most often in the people I treat are: they tend to put other people’s needs ahead of their own, and they don’t take credit for their successes. Those two tendencies, in concert, are very common in people who battle their weight. If that is you, or someone you love, you will see how those tendencies can contribute to overeating.
The tendency to put other people’s needs ahead of your own is not a bad thing. It is only when it goes too far, that it becomes a problem. When the Mom feeds the screaming baby before she feeds herself, it’s no problem. When I am so afraid that you won’t like me if I say no to you, that I am willing to do things I really, really don’t want to do just so you’ll like me; then it becomes a problem. I will do things for you but resent doing them. If I have trained myself to use food to deal with my feelings, I might just eat that resentment rather than risk having a confrontation and possibly losing a “friend”. It’s as if my self esteem is so low that I think people only value me for what I can do for them and not for who I am.
People who consistently put other people’s needs first tend to attract people who will use them. “Oh Janet will do it, she never says no.” One client of mine, who is now finding her sense of self, knew she was getting better when she asked a friend if there was anything she could do to help and the friend said, “Could you clean the bathroom?” She said, “No, I’m not doing that.” In that moment she knew she had turned a corner. She is no longer friends with the woman who asked her to clean the bathroom. Not because she refused to clean her bathroom, but in that moment she also realized that this person was just using her.
If in addition to putting others first, you don’t take credit for your successes, then you are not likely to believe that you can control very much. If you do try to accomplish something like weight loss, and have some success, you will think the Diet God is with you, or you’re just lucky this time. You might even try to minimize your success with thoughts such as, “It’s not the losing it but the keeping it off that matters. I’ll probably just gain it back anyway.” This way of thinking really makes you feel like you have no control. As if you don’t matter and have no effect. If you feel like you have no control, then you really can’t lose weight and keep it off because that requires self discipline and a certain amount of control.
Losing weight also requires that you put yourself on your list of priorities. That you make time to buy fresh produce, cook healthy food, exercise, keep track of what you’re eating, educate yourself about calories, weigh yourself and focus on you. You may even need to tell someone you love, “I’m sorry but I can’t do that for you now because I’m going to the gym.” The shift between taking care of everyone else and taking care of yourself can be huge for someone with very low self esteem.
So in order to lose weight and keep it off, you have to work on your self esteem, and not just your weight. You have to like yourself enough to do the work it takes to lose weight and keep it off. In my previous blogs I have outlined the nuts and bolts of weight loss. If you don’t yet know how to lose weight, those blogs will give you the tools. Armed with those tools the only thing standing between you, and being the weight you want to be, is you.