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Packing on the Pounds—Problem or Symptom?

Posted Nov 08 2012 5:00am

Is being overweight the problem or is it merely a symptom?

Take the case of Jenna. She is newly divorced. After a difficult marriage in which she was cheated on and lied to about it, she has been forging a new life for herself for the past four months. Throughout her marriage her husband kept her off balance. His lies weren’t the only thing. He was also quite critical of Jenna, how she never measured up in lots of ways. He would get excessively angry with her, and although she fought back, he was too overpowering for her. He could be ruthless whereas Jenna always had to take the high road and be the good guy.

A few months before Jenna’s divorce would become final, she met someone, a man who she could easily talk to and share with, a man who would become someone who she loved deeply and who loved her deeply as well. Once divorced, and after a few months on her own, she moved in with this man. There was great relief on Jenna’s part. She had found someone very different than her ex-husband, someone who prized her, respected her, loved her, and who didn’t have the personal problems that her ex-husband had.

Jenna began to gain weight. When she had put on about twelve extra pounds in just over four months, she got terribly worried. This unwanted weight was certainly a problem for Jenna, but was it also a symptom, a symptom of another problem of which Jenna wasn’t aware? Her excess weight was the result of too much celebration. Although she and her new partner did not call it celebrating, that’s indeed what they had been doing. They cooked and ate and weren’t careful at all about how much they reveled in cooking and eating. For Jenna it was her way of compensating herself for all the difficult years she spent with her ex-husband, for all the years she had to be the good guy to his bad guy.

Jenna finally got a hold of herself about gaining weight like this. She was able to see that while her weight gain might have looked like it was the problem, it was really a symptom, a signal to her to look at what was causing her weight gain. Of course, the ostensible cause was her overeating, but the less obvious, more distinct cause was her need to compensate herself for all that she’d been through.


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