Can childhood abuse be making me fat?

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics

Childhood abuse can make you fat if as an adult you have never come to terms with its emotional effects. Often times when we have early childhood trauma there are deep emotional scars. If you do not understand that these traumas were due more to the inability of adults to parent properly rather than through any fault of your own, you may use food as a way to soothe these old wounds that lie beneath the surface. Food may be what you used as a child for comfort and emotional nourishment. Detrimental habits started in childhood can have lifelong physical and emotional consequences. There are many reputable therapists that can help. Seek one out.

The short answer is yes, abuse in childhood can lead to obesity. This has been demonstrated by health experts who have screened thousands of people for a history of abuse and other such adverse events in childhood and current health status. They have found an increased risk of obesity, among other things such as addiction, in those who have a history of childhood abuse. Trying to deal with obesity without acknowledging it's root causes is an exercise in futility and, in my opinion, may be one of the reasons why people struggle to lose weight.

Jacob Teitelbaum
Integrative Medicine
New research suggests a physical mechanism that may be contributing to the weight gain. The study looked at women who have fibromyalgia or osteoarthritis pain. It found that the ones with a history of sexual or emotional abuse as a child had significantly higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol ― despite the abuse having happened in the distant past. One side effect of cortisol levels that are too high is weight gain. Interestingly, the elevated cortisol was not found in women who suffered emotional trauma as a child from being neglected.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.