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
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.