There are many health risks associated with being overweight or obese including osteoarthritis, coronary heart disease, gallbladder disease, high blood pressure, respiratory problems, sleep apnea, stroke, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Obesity rates in the United Kingdom are now the highest in Europe and have risen dramatically in the last two decades. So, given the associated health risks and the possibility of a greatly reduced life expectancy, why do people overeat? The reasons are complex and can be influenced by medical conditions, genetics and environment. There are some medical conditions such as Cushing's syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome and having an under-active thyroid which can cause weight gain, however, less than 1 case in 100 actually has a medical cause for obesity. Genetics may be a major factor in obesity if most or all the following factors are present:
The cause of being overweight or obese, taken at face value, is simple, if your daily intake of calories is greater than the amount of energy expended, you will store the excess calories as fat and put on weight. So eating less and exercising more will lead to a reduction in weight. Most people are aware of this, but can still find it very difficult to stick to a healthy, balanced diet. It is quite common for people to adopt a cycle of dieting, overeating, feeling guilty and starting the cycle all over again. Research has shown that “yoyo dieting” actually leads to weight gain, with it being harder and harder to lose the additional weight. While diets look at (and restrict) what you eat and how often you eat it, they do not address how you feel about what you eat or how you feel about the way you look. The relationship we have with food is a vital part of being in control of our eating habits; understanding why we crave certain foods or always reach for a chocolate bar when we feel fed up or do not even notice that we have polished off a whole a packet of biscuits whilst watching TV.
There are several different types of eating disorder, the most common being anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. Eating disorders are mental health conditions that all involve an unhealthy relationship with food and eating, and often an intense fear of being overweight. If you have an eating disorder you may experience one or more of the following:
It's unlikely that an eating disorder will be the result of one single cause. It's much more likely to be a combination of many factors, events, feelings or pressures that lead to you feeling unable to cope.
These can include low self-esteem, problems with friends or family relationships, the death of someone special, problems at school, college, university or work, lack of confidence, or sexual or emotional abuse. Many people talk about simply feeling too fat or not good enough. You might use food to help you cope with painful situations or feelings without even realising it.
In situations where there are high academic expectations, family issues or social pressures, you may focus on food and eating as a way of coping. People with eating disorders often say that the eating disorder is the only way they feel they can stay in control of their life. But, as time goes on, it is the eating disorder that starts to control you.
Anyone can develop an eating disorder, regardless of age, sex or cultural or racial background. The people most affected tend to be young women, particularly between the ages of 15 and 25, and around 10% of people with eating disorders are men.
We can help to identify and gain insight into the underlying causes of your eating issues and identify unhelpful emotional responses and negative patterns of behaviour. We can help you to regain control of your eating, adopt healthy eating habits, provide motivation for sticking with your new behaviour so that you are able to start the journey towards your desired goals.