The why behind weight gain

15 May

Last night, I read something that bothered me.  I won’t go into the details, but basically, it implied that people are fat because they eat too much.  It annoyed me enough that I went off about it to my husband, who said “Then blog about it.”

So that’s what I’m doing – blogging about it.  Why it annoyed me so much.

Now, I’m not ignorant – food can make you fat.  Lots of wrong food choices will make you put on weight.  I can get behind that.

But at the same time, it’s not food that makes you gain weight.  In many ways, it’s life that does it to you.

Case in point – I’m a good 50 pounds overweight.  According to the BMI, I’m Obese.  I hate the BMI by the way.  I think it’s a lousy scale, as it also tells me that my idea weight would start at like 100 pounds.

Now, how did I get to be 50 pounds over my ideal weight?  Not from stuffing Twinkies in my face morning, noon and night.  Nor was it from getting super-sized fast food meals every other day.

No, my weight gain was caused by depression and having learned the fine art of emotional eating and self-medicating with food. Throw four pregnancies with postpartum depression to help fill me out.  I didn’t gain the weight overnight.  It slowly crept on with the pregnancies, then exploded at the end with the depression.

This is someone who’s never dealt with depression or dealt with weight gain doesn’t get.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s not always because of bad food choices at every meal.  It’s those moments in life, when you can barely keep breathing, and you stuff a candy bar in your mouth because for one moment, that candy bar makes you feel good. And then you go, try on clothes, have nothing fit, feel bad…so you soothe yourself with a bowl of ice cream.

It may not make sense to the naturally skinny, to those who’ve never struggled with depression.  But I’m also betting a lot of you are nodding your head and saying “Oh yeah, been there, done that.”

And there are times, when you’re shoving that cookie in your mouth, you think to yourself “You know, I don’t even want this cookie.”  But you eat it anyway.  Because you’ve been taught so well how to emotionally eat.  To have food make you feel better.

Only it doesn’t.

And then someone naturally skinny person comes along and says they must have an “inner fat girl” because they love food so much.

Let me tell you – that’s just bullshit.  I didn’t get fat because I love food so much, and the same goes for so many others in the same boat.  It happens because there’s something bigger going on in their lives that they can’t control.  So they eat.  Sometimes, they don’t even like what they’re eating, but they eat it anyway.

It’s not always about poor food choices.  It’s not always about portion size.  It’s not always about over-eating.  Sometimes, weight gain is a symptom of a bigger issue, one that isn’t well seen.  Anxiety.  Depression.  Shame. Abuse. Medical issues.

All around me these days, I see these really skinny women, walking out of the coffee shop with a tall skinny latte and a muffin or something that just by looking at it, I will gain a pound.  But obviously it doesn’t affect them.  And I wonder, where did I go wrong?  What choices did I make that put me over here, in the Obese end of the BMI scale?

And then I think of those days, when Maura was just diagnosed with “something”, no one able to tell me what was wrong with my child, learning that I may never know…and those times I sat around, staring at the tv, shoving a bag of chips in my mouth because I just couldn’t deal with life.  Rewarding myself after a bad day with some ice cream.  Then realizing that I put on ten pounds in ice cream alone in a month, and feeling badly over it.

A constant vicious cycle of not feeling good.

And the funny thing is – I don’t let my kids eat like that.  It’s just myself I’m shooting in the foot.

But at this point, I’m done with being overweight.  I’m learning different ways of perking up my mood.  I’ve figured out the “why” behind I eat, and I’m trying to do better.  So that someday, I can be that skinny gal with the tall latte and muffin.  Well, maybe not skinny.  I’ve never been skinny, not since puberty.  But fitter, healthier, less lumpy, more curvy.

I’m still going to like my food, I’m just not going to listen to the lies it tells me, and call it a damn dirty liar when it tells me it’ll make me feel better.  I’ve learned a lot about myself over the past few years – and this is one of the things.

Maybe you’ve learned something too by reading this.




35 Responses to “The why behind weight gain”

  1. Jessica May 15, 2012 at 10:25 am #


  2. Meg May 15, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    I can’t even tell you how much I needed to read this today, and how good it is to see someone else understand. Thank you.

  3. kim brickley May 15, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    Wow! You could be writing my life story. I am starting a year long program tonight that also deals with the emotional side of eating. Thank you for this. I will be printing it out and rereading it a lot. Here’s to our health!

  4. Anna 紬アナ (@thisgoodlife) May 15, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    ❤ you, Phoebe.

    • phoebz4 May 15, 2012 at 10:36 am #

      love you back Anna!

  5. Courtney May 15, 2012 at 10:45 am #

    I’m a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and I still eat to fill my emotions. Be proud of yourself for recognizing what is happening and doing something to change it. All parents want to be there for their children, but us parents of special needs kids have a bigger challenge of needing to provide for our kids for life, not just until they ‘grow up and move out’. I took control of my health and lost 70 pounds of emotional eating. I needed to feel better and have more energy to tackle the hand life dealt me. It’s still a struggle and I still want to eat ‘crap food’, especially after a bad doctor’s appointment with my daughter. Some times I do, but most of the time we don’t. Best wishes!

  6. KyLee May 15, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    I have to ask…if you had to do it all over again, would you go from dr to
    dr just to be told that there is “something” going on, but what, we’re not sure. I am asking for expierence. We are headed on the road with our 5 year old. I get the depression and guilt that causes and it is suffocating!!!
    Just looking for insight….

    • phoebz4 May 15, 2012 at 11:04 am #

      I’ve done it in cycles. Some days, I’m fine with the unknown, other times, I’d want to know. At this point, I just jot down things I’ve read about and bring it up at our next doctor visit. I go in with the idea that they still have no clue and all tests will come back normal. But I am a naturally curious person so will eventually have the need to have certain questions answered. At the same time, I’m pretty comfortable with not knowing because at this stage, it won’t make a huge difference with how we treat Maura. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

  7. Lori May 15, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    I’ve always struggled with my weight…ever since I was little. Unfortuantely, my Type I Diabetes always got in the way of shedding those extra pounds. My sugar would crash and I would eat anything and everything in sight just to curb my starvation and to get my sugar up. In my world…perspective is key. Thank you for taking the time to talk about it. xoxo

  8. Susan May 15, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    Nice post! This was me about 16 months ago. I saw a picture of myself in a white parka at Christmas time and nearly dropped my teeth–I looked like the stay-puff marshmallow! I decided that my gift to myself for 2011 was to get serious about getting healthy–no specific weight loss goal but a REAL honest commitment about eating better (smarter, not emotionally) and exercising more. I started small, using my Wii Fit for tracking (can’t tell you how helpful and now rewarding that little graph has become) and starting to exercise daily. For me, it had to be both things eating and exercise to really flip that switch. It took nine long months, and more that a few bumps along the way, but I lost 30 pounds and have kept it off for 8 months! I have never felt better, look great and have a better outlook on life. This Saturday I am running in my second 5K event; I would have never predicted this in a million years!
    Good luck and keep us posted on your progress. You can do this!!

  9. Kristy May 15, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    Thank you, I needed this today.

  10. Hope May 15, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    Though I understand what you are saying and have been overweight myself, I do respectfully disagree with the comment that life makes someone overweight. We all have to make the choice to eat or not eat or what to eat. I too have battled depression and know what it is like to have a special needs child. Our family deals w/ an extremely rare condition and are constantly riddled w/ questions as to what is going on. I understand emotional eating, but we need to take responsibility for our health not only for our children, especially those who may rely on us indefinitely, but for ourselves and for our sanity. I’m glad to read you are ready to tackle this head on. Fitness has saved me from wallowing in my own sorrows. Besides, our actions definitely speak louder than words in the practice of setting an example for our children.

    • phoebz4 May 15, 2012 at 11:11 am #

      I appreciate your view point even if I don’t fully agree with it. I do want to make something clear – I go out of my way to make sure my kids eat healthy. I have seen my bad habits and work hard to make sure I don’t teach them the same bad habits. While they appreciate junk food, they also do things like have an afternoon snack of oatmeal, or eat all the fruit I buy, and the carrots too. I tell my kids I want to lose weight so I can be healthy. Even while I secretly sneak that Twix bar.

      And yes, technically I have the choice to not stick that Twix bar in my face. But it doesn’t always work that way. Emotionally eating means craving that Twix bar even though you know you don’t need it, and sometimes don’t even want it. Yet you do it anyway. I guess you could liken it to smoking – you know it’s bad, but it’s a damn hard habit to break.

      • Hope May 15, 2012 at 11:27 am #

        As a self-proclaimed and publicly recognized choco-holic, I do understand the habit. Though I don’t understand not actually wanting it.;)

      • phoebz4 May 15, 2012 at 11:31 am #

        so have you ever had a moment, when you’re going through a bag of Hershey Kisses or the like, eating one after another, and have thought to yourself “I don’t even want to eat these.”, yet you keep unwrapping one after another? Or hear upsetting news and start searching for a cookie or brownie? Have a sad moment as you eat a Hershey bar while crying? Knowing the Hershey bar is not going to make you feel better, but you eat it anyway?

        *That* is how I’ve emotionally eaten in the past. *That* is what I’m working to overcome. *That* is how I put on the weight.

      • Hope May 15, 2012 at 11:47 am #

        I can’t seem to reply directly to our thread. But no, I tend to be a happy eater rather than sad. (Although, I never don’t want chocolate.) My depression manifests itself in OCD and withdrawing from daily responsibilities. Going into hiding, so to speak. I don’t have the same habit you do, but I think it’s dangerous to let a habit own you. Which is why I think it’s great you are making a conscious effort. I’ve been on the journey to lose 50+ pounds before. I know it’s not easy. But I also know with the right attitude, you got this!

  11. Cheryl-Lynn May 15, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    So true and there is no one size fits all method or timeline to manage it…Thanks so much for blogging about this. You ARE definitely my hero:)

  12. Mary Marianne Lynch Trana May 15, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    Yet another excellent post by you, my friend. I remember, years ago, laughing with a friend who said she was starving and had to eat. I said, “oh, you actually eat cause you are hungry?” She gave me the funniest look. LOLOLOL I said, “I eat when I’m sad, mad, frustrated. I eat when I’m tired, upset, depressed, but RARELY do I eat cause I’m hungry!” Blessed are those who do not suffer from depression/anxiety. I am the youngest of 5 in an Irish Catholic family. We are no different from any other family, I’m guessing. I grew up in the shrowd of secrecy that we now laugh at in TV commercials of the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” mentality. I cannot tell you the number of times my mother said to me…”don’t talk to anyone about what happens at home!” ugh. If only I had…. if only my friends had. Oh, the joy we would have shared at not feeling like we were the only ones who had crazy families with weird habits and/or addicitions. We would have known we were the NORM instead of the freaks! We need to break these bad habits today, for our kids. We also need to realize that its okay to be good to ourselves. We need to take that nap when we are tired, even if its just for 30 mins. We deserve it. I know myslef, I am just learning that its okay to do nice things for myself. Its hard, I cannot lie. I’m beginning to realize that I can be a friend to myself! I do not always have to do for other people. Although my dear Mother drilled that into us…. I’m not saying its a bad trait…. but perhaps realizing/learning/accepting that doing for ourselves is OKAY too! I pray one day to be thin. I have been praying for this for about 43 years. I know in order for that to happen I have to do the work, hit the gym, cook GOOD food, meditate, go to sleep at a decent hour. But will I allow myself the time to take for myslef, as it is so much easier to give that time to make someone else’s life easier, better, happier. My new mantra: I’m Worth It! And Phoebe, while I know your life is crazy busy… you, my dear, are Worth It TOO! xoxo M

  13. Angie May 15, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    Love this post! It is me in so many ways! It really helps to know there are others out there who get it. May I print this out to help me along my path to being healthier for myself and my kids? I would also like to share it, if you dont mind with a couple of my family members. Love you Phoebe!!

    • phoebz4 May 15, 2012 at 11:34 am #

      Of course you can 🙂 Good luck to you!

  14. wonkafonka May 15, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    Oh god, I love you. Right on, sister.

  15. Denise May 15, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    Amen sister!! I struggle with it daily, and I truly wish I could learn to eat because I’m hungry. My biggest question to you, from one “supermom” to another, how do you carve out time for yourself? My family seems to need me front and center all the time and even carving 10 minutes for a workout is impossible. Maybe when the kids are older…

    • phoebz4 May 15, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

      Denise – all my kids are in school, so there is 5 hours in the day where I can make it to the gym. But then there are days like today, where I had things scheduled for 4 1/2 of those five hours…but it really is a lot easier now that there is a chunk of time in my day I don’t have to wipe a nose or backside, lol!

  16. JO May 15, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    This is me- in words. Emotionally over eating. Trying to fill a cavernous void that will never be filled by food, while coping with immense difficulties and feelings of helplessness with my daughters refractory seizures. One thing you forgot to mention is how conditioned we are to view food this way. Every special occasion revolves around food- birthday cake, valentines party cupcakes and cookies and chocolate etc.
    Thank you for finding the words.

  17. lyonsroarforgod May 15, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    I totally hear and understand what you’re saying. I eat for emotional needs also. I started South Beach diet a few weeks ago, and had been doing great until today. We had an issue with our special needs daughter yesterday, and what did I do today? Eat 2 Little Debbie snack cakes. And now I feel horrible. But tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet, and all I can do is try to do better. And maybe put on some really good music. Thank you for your post. It helps to know that many others struggle with this.

    • phoebz4 May 15, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

      First – I love that you quoted “Anne of Green Gables”!

      But yeah, it’s so easy to fall back, but no one’s perfect and if we stumble, well, we just get right back up there, right? Good luck with your journey!

      • doovermom May 16, 2012 at 12:54 am #

        I understand what you are going through! I am fifty pounds overweight as well and depression truly got me here. I tell myself that I will exercise when I “get everything done” – nothing is ever done. I am the mom of a thirty-two year old daughter who is hemiplegic due to a rare brain disease and a thirty-five year old FDNY – in Harlem! Your post made me really think about this – In my mind, my life will “begin” when I am thin but I am doing nothing to get there. I am retired with two hours of alone time per day. Beginning tomorrow I am getting out there for a walk and I will NOT eat that candy bar! I am putting it in the trash tonight (pray that I don’t take it out!) I am a lot older than you but I started thinking about my weight years ago. I am not getting any younger! Start with me – lets do thirty minutes of speed walking and keep the candy in the trash! We deserve it!

      • phoebz4 May 16, 2012 at 2:59 am #

        First, give your son the fireman a hug from me and tell him “Good job!”

        And yeah, one of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is that life doesn’t begin, it’s happening right now. There is no perfect time, there is just now.

        Good for you for realizing this too! Ditch the candy bar and enjoy your walk! I’m headed out to the gym soon myself 🙂

  18. Merri Shearer May 15, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    No truer words…thank you.

  19. Jasmine May 15, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    Love this one. Thank you!

  20. Jessica May 15, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

    Illness can do alot with your behaviour, be it depression or some other infliction. Any disorder interfering with brain function can do plenty. After lingering with strange neurological symtoms, which I didn’t even register at the time, I was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder. Among other things, it destroys hormone production. I was put on industrious amounts of prednisone. It’s a wonder drug in many ways but it’s also quite hellish. As in weight gain. I fell into the trenches of depression when the full spectrum of the disorder began to unveil itself. That too spurred apetite, or hindered it during some periods. Take a neurological syndrome, add depression, add medicines to keep you alive and then add immobility and Houston we have a problem.
    My issues with weight began early though, I coped with anxiety from age 10 by eating. A mechanism I understood as the depression was diagnosed. Recently I’ve had to put some effort into restriction. Prednisone can cause osteoporosis, as it has in my case, and heaviness on a wiltering bone structure doesn’t do that much for your general well-being.
    In the midst of all this people tend to ask me what happened. My reply these days is that life happened.

  21. Marlene May 16, 2012 at 8:22 am #

    Thank you!

  22. Madeleine May 16, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    I needed to read this today. This didn’t happen b/c I’m eating big macs and banana splits, I wish. It’s crept up through the birth of a 1 pond 12 ounce baby boy no one thought woul make it. HE did. It’s crept up through depression of dealing with all his issues, with a diagnosis of autism. Through trying to keep my family happy and together despite the obstacles. It’s crept up through the birth of a second son, healthy and full-term but at age 41 almost 2 years ago. I too am changing my thinking and exercising for me and for them. They need me healthy and I need to realize that I can do this. I will never be 135 again nor do I want to be but I realized it’s not about the extra 50 pounds, it’s about accepting this as my life and that I am worth it.

  23. Karen May 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    From another 50-lb-over, mine started after my divorce through my insecurities of raising my kids alone, then during and after a verbally abusive relationship…also insecurities…and now, at 63, more insecurities on growing old alone on a fixed income. My favorite abuse was late-night eating and not the sweets that most people have, but the snacky kind of foods like popcorn shrimp and pizza rolls. I’ve managed to give up the late-night eating but the older you get the harder it is to lose that weight. Now I’m down 5lbs (not much is it) but I look at a 5lb bag of potatoes and think…that’s what I’ve lost so far. That makes it feel better. Can’t wait to look at a 10lb bag and feel the same way. Now if I can just kick the chocolate habit…sigh.

  24. JoDee May 16, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    What an excellent post and it hits home on so many levels.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: