There’s no way really to put a positive spin or a clever title on this bit of research, which shows a link between childhood rape and obesity in women.
Researchers surveyed about 2,500 men and women aged 21 and found 7.5 % had had intercourse against their will before the age of 16. While the men had no significant weight difference to other men, female victims were much more likely to have a body mass index (BMI) over 25, making them officially overweight…
Dr Mamun said the link was not entirely understood but it was believed sexual abuse victims were more inclined to be heavier because they would “comfort eat” to cope. What they have been through is very traumatic, so binge eating may be a way of dealing with that emotional overload,” he said. “The fact that men did not do the same shows that sexes process these things very differently, and it may reflect the specific body image pressures on women.”
The researchers also suggest that female victims may purposefully try to alter their lifestyles to increase weight as a means of protecting themselves from further abuse.
I have heard this theory before (that overweight is a way to protect ourselves from unwanted sexual attention) and I have always believed that link sometimes does exist. Unlike the researchers, I don’t think it’s a purposeful thing, though. I think it’s more likely an unconscious coping mechanism, which can be more difficult for people to surmount. I’m just an armchair psychologist, but I’ve seen it happen, with children that I have known. And I’m not going to say any more about that.
This blogger makes another interesting point:
You only have to watch The Biggest Loser to know that all those rolls of fat are hiding some pretty severe trauma and some very painful self esteem issues. The programme often does a lot to repair this kind of damage because they get the contestants into a different mind set. The effects may not last but there is hope once they have confronted their pain that they may find a way out. Psychological support is important. Some contestants don’t continue because they are dealing with awful past events and realise it’s not what they want to confront on TV. To have a study like this only serves to underline how critically important it is to discover why people seek solace in food, why they become food addicts and why they continue to punish themselves for things which are largely out of their control.
Of course, it would be be very dangerous to start seeing all overweight people as emotionally damaged victims. “All those rolls of fat are hiding some pretty severe trauma” is not necessarily always the case. But perhaps knowing that this link can sometimes exist might encourage people to be a little more compassionate, a little less judgmental.
After all, you have no idea what the average person on the street–fat or thin or in between–has been through. And maybe losing weight is, in fact, not as easy as all that, and maybe there’s more to it than you think. So maybe people should just step off sometimes. You know what I mean?
Posted by mo pie