Why do women have so much trouble with food and weight?
Many writers in the field of women' s issues have considered this
question, and we can never think about it too much. It can be a dark
and difficult part of a woman' s existence.
Problems with eating and weight are caused by a combination of
factors, some unique and individual, some environmental and cultural.
In our contemporary society, overwhelming importance is placed on
physical appearance for women. This starts in childhood and persists
through adolescence and young adulthood, through middle age and beyond.
At the same time women are pursuing new opportunities for jobs,
careers, professions, they may also feel the need to meet certain very
narrow beauty standards, which include being as thin as possible. As
body image concerns become paramount, it is understandable that women
tend to use the body as a focal point for their anxieties and conflicts
about self-worth and self-acceptance.
Traditionally, women have had to deny such things as neediness,
anger, aggression, ambition, and power. Although a lot has changed over
the past two generations, there still is the lingering "good girl"
image, the abiding idea that women are not really supposed to be as
bold as men. When women feel the need to deny their true desires, they
may try to make up for this with food.
Also, women more than men feel the responsibility of taking care of
the people around them. Even though there is much crossing over of what
have been stereotypical male-female roles, women are still considered
nurturers, caregivers, and feeders. To give care and nourishment to
others takes a good deal of energy that cannot be replenished properly
if a woman is in constant conflict about her body size and losing
During the course of her role changes—from girl to preteen to young
adult to middle age, through career pursuits, marriage, mothering,
empty nest, caring for aging parents, loss of parents—preoccupation
with food and body size can become something for a woman to lean on,
something to help get her through.
If this sounds like you, you may want to explore how concentrating
on these things might feel like a stabilizing force in the midst of the
turmoil, pressures and demands of your life. Once you recognize that
you use food and weight issues like this, you can look for alternative
ways to cope that would be much better for you.