I was having a conversation with a girlfriend the other day and we were talking about the far-reaching effects of a poor body image. It was sort of one of those “aha moments” and like any diehard writer, I’m always looking for new subject matter to write about, and this subject in particular struck a chord with me, especially as it pertains to America’s serious weight problem.
According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “More than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults have obesity." Interestingly, higher income women are less likely to be obese than lower-income women, the CDC reports. And lastly, women with college degrees are less likely to be obese than women who are less educated.
Apparently, there are strong links between education and income in thin women, which probably has a lot to do with having more knowledge about diet and exercise, not to mention the fact that wealthier women tend to be very conscious about their body image. However, when it comes to educated men and obesity, the CDC has not identified the same links that are associated with women – I’m not surprised.
If you’ve ever travelled to Europe, you probably noticed that Europeans are much thinner than Americans. While researchers and medical experts scratch their heads as to why, I’m convinced that our large portions, high consumption of processed foods, lack of fresh produce in our diets, overconsumption of sugary drinks, and sedentary lifestyles are the major culprits. Really, it’s not rocket science.
Saying that America has a HUGE problem with obesity is nothing new; physically it’s leading to Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, high LDL cholesterol, body aches and pains, sleep apnea, breathing problems, and a low quality of life – those are only some of the health effects of being overweight. Now…I want to touch on the psychological effects of being overweight, which in my estimation, can be just as bad as the physical effects.
Obesity Can Kill Self-Esteem
When I was talking to my girlfriend, she and I were talking about the negative effects of being overweight and how it can affect self-esteem, self-confidence, socializing, taking on leadership roles at work, intimacy, public speaking, promotions, dating, marriage, and participating in family activities – really, is there anything that it doesn’t affect? If you’re struggling with weight issues like millions of Americans, I’m sure you can rattle off even more things that could be added to the list.
More often than not, the following situations can make a lot of overweight people, especially women, physically and emotionally uncomfortable:
· Dating someone new
· Eating out at a buffet
· Working out at the gym
· Attending weddings
· Dressing up for a night on the town
· Asking for a promotion
· Speaking to a crush (single people)
· Asking someone out on a date
· Attending a high school reunion
· Wearing a bathing suit in public
· And much more
Aside from the serious health consequences associated with being obese, such as a shortened life expectancy, the inability to walk around all day, and reduced quality of life, we simply cannot ignore the psychological consequences, which can have far-reaching effects on virtually all aspects of our lives. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “Obesity is also frequently accompanied by depression and the two can trigger and influence each other.”
“Although women are slightly more at risk for having an unhealthy BMI than men, they are much more vulnerable to the obesity-depression cycle. In one study, obesity in women was associated with a 37 percent increase in major depression,” reports the APA. I found this data interesting because it validated what I had suspected.
While many overweight people have mastered the art of putting on a smile and acting like everything is great in their life, I’m calling them out. Having gone from the proverbial “fat kid” in elementary school who took the brunt of the fat jokes to 110 pounds by the age of 18, to up and down between having three kids, I can honestly say that my mindset was VERY different when I wore a size 4 versus when I wore a size 10. While I was never obese by any standards, the head trash was pretty debilitating, and I know that many of you reading this right now can relate.
(On my wedding day, 125 pounds lean and the workout queen. Now, I'm working on getting back to optimum health.)
After researching and speaking with countless girlfriends over the years who were struggling with their weight, I am convinced that obesity affects many aspects of a person’s life. From the obvious, such as dating and swimsuit shopping, to the less-obvious, like wanting to fit in with the “cool” co-workers and worrying about people judging you at the grocery store for what you put in your cart – obesity definitely affects our overall happiness in dozens of ways.
If you are struggling with your weight, I urge you to pause and think about your life for a moment. Are you uncomfortable about your body? Are you less active than you’d like to be? Do you worry what other people think about you? Is your excess weight affecting your ability to truly enjoy life, to enjoy your spouse, and your kids?
If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, I urge you to start focusing on your health for the sake of you and your loved ones. I recently decided to embark on a personal mission to “eat clean,” mostly organic, and to get into the best shape of my life so I can still lift weights when I’m in my 70s and beyond (my secret dream). In other words, I’m holding myself accountable for my personal happiness and if you believe that your weight is holding you back in life, I invite you to do the same.
Elainna Ciaramella is an independent journalist, business blogger, and ghostwriter for entrepreneurs and business professionals nationwide. She has written extensively on the topics of business, entrepreneurship, law, and medicine. She is well-versed in search engine optimization, content marketing, and social media. You can connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google +, and Instagram.
Originally published on LinkedIn.