Sex Abuse Linked to Obesity
In Hungry for More: A Keeping-it-Real Guide for Black Women on Weight and Body Image, author Robyn McGee writes that “in order to heal from the pain and trauma of childhood molestation, it is critical that treatment for sexual abuse related to obesity include recovery for the whole family.”
Yvette is an alcohol and drug counselor with a master’s degree in psychology who has fought addiction demons much of her adult life. As a child, she lived next door to three older kids who molested Yvette for years. She believes that her childhood nightmare has contributed to the never-ending battle with her weight.
Before her gastric bypass operation, Virginia, a single mother of four, spent years in therapy trying to come to terms with the fact that her biological father forced her to have sex with him throughout her teenage years. Even after weight loss surgery, memories still haunt Virginia to the point that to this day, she cannot even speak her father’s name.
Elizabeth says she too was molested as child, but does not make the connection between childhood sexual abuse and obesity. “Yes, I was molested by a family member as child,” Elizabeth reveals. “But that is not the reason I am overweight. I am overweight because it is in my genes to be fat. I was thin as a child.”
According to Dr. Michael Myers, a weight loss specialist in Los Alamitos, California, 40 percent of his patients have been victims of childhood sexual abuse. “There is some experimental evidence that suggests increases in so-called ‘stress hormones,’ such as cortisol, that result from extreme psychological stress can induce the proliferation of fat cells and predispose sexual abuse victims to the development of obesity,” Dr. Myers said.
“It has been known for years that sexual abuse of women is associated with eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa,” Dr Myers continues. “But now many of the physicians who treat obesity believe there is a strong correlation between sexual abuse and the onset of adult obesity.”
Continues Dr. Myers "survivors of sexual abuse often have low self-esteem and feel that it was their fault they were sexually abused-an emotional but totally illogical belief.”
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