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When I was growing up there was rarely an overweight child. Occasionally someone would be plump, but I can’t remember anyone in my class being fat. However, TV wasn’t around until I was eight years old and the streets were a safe place to play. We had plenty of P.E. in school and played hard after school. Even as we grew older and had more homework, physical activity was a major part of our lives. And there wasn’t as much junk food around yet.
Today, the combination of processed junk food and the lack of physical activity is a deadly combination regarding weight. This is quite obvious to everyone. What is not so obvious is the underlying factor that causes children to use food addictively.
The underlying cause of all addictive behavior is the avoidance of pain. Unfortunately, many children have a lot of pain to avoid. While this has always been true, what is also true is that the junk food, TV and video games, and the variety of drugs on the streets were not available when I was growing up. Children today can easily turn to processed food, drugs, and TV to avoid their pain.
The problem is they don’t know any other way of managing their pain. This is because their parents don’t know of healthy ways of managing their pain. The chances are that the parents of overweight children are not role modeling healthy ways of dealing with pain.
Let’s take 10 year old Brittany as an example. Brittany is overweight and addicted to sweets and refined carbohydrates. Brittany’s father, Samson, is very overweight. He doesn’t exercise at all and sits in front of the TV all evening drinking beer. While Brittany’s mother, Paula, does not use food addictively and does some exercise, she is addicted to yelling as her way of handling her pain. And her yelling is mostly directed at her only child, Brittany. In addition, Paula’s life is totally focused around Brittany. Having no real life of her own, her eyes are always on her daughter. In her eyes, Brittany is a reflection of her and so she has to be perfect. Her imperfections trigger Paula’s anger, which creates much stress for Brittany.
Brittany feels invaded and controlled by her mother and resists Paula’s control in a way that drives Paula crazy – she overeats. Thinness is important to Paula and she desperately wants Brittany to look the way she “should” look. But there is nothing Paula can do to control Brittany’s eating, and the more she tries, the worse it gets.
Brittany has learned to use food to avoid the pain of feeling inadequate, unloved and controlled. She has learned to use food to fill the emptiness she feels when her mother yells at her and expects her to be perfect. Food is the friend she can count on to soothe and comfort her. Paula has tried to restrict the amount of food available in the house, but Samson just goes out and buys more to fulfill his food addiction. And there is always food available at Brittany’s friend’s houses. There is just no way that Paula can control Brittany’s eating.
What Paula can do is take her eyes off Brittany and put them squarely on herself. If Paula wants to help Brittany, she first needs to help herself. She needs to learn healthy ways of handling her own feelings of inadequacy and stress so that she doesn’t take her pain out on Brittany.
Paula needs to become a healthy role model for Brittany regarding taking personal responsibility for her own feeling and behavior. Rather than trying to control Brittany, Paula needs to show Brittany, by her own actions, how to take care of her pain in healthy ways. A good place for Paula to start helping herself and her daughter is to download our free course at www.innerbonding.com. By learning and practicing the Six Steps of Inner Bonding, Paula can gradually become the loving parent that Brittany needs.
About the Author: Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is the best-selling author and co-author of eight books, including "Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?" and “Healing Your Aloneness.” She is the co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® healing process. Learn Inner Bonding now! Visit her web site for a FREE Inner Bonding course: http://www.innerbonding.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone sessions available.