You may already know about the cycle of obesity and how this generational cycle keeps people trapped in a painful struggle. Here we would like to take a microscope and focus it on the family unit to examine how home life becomes tangled in this cycle of obesity.
Psychologists have long recognized eating as one of the two most basic human needs. The other of these basic needs is sex. Considering that our survival urgently depends on eating, eating and food outrank sex as the most important of the basic human drives. Given this primary importance of food and eating to human life, from a psychological standpoint we are heavily influenced to eat and become obsessed with eating to guarantee our survival.
To understand just how intense the psychology of eating is, consider what happens when you need to gasp for a breath of air. Have you ever been swimming underwater and begun to run out of air? Remember how it felt as you panicked to get to the surface? You struggled to get to the surface no matter what price you had to pay to breathe. This same drive exists in us all in regard to the daily need for food. Fortunately, we live in a society where food is plentiful. Because of this abundance, the intensity of this basic drive is not foremost on our minds like experiencing the panic for air as in our example. But be aware that this intense need for food is there underneath the surface and always pushing us, just like the example of gasping for air.
Another important psychological function of food is as a coping mechanism that helps us handle emotional states. We use food to soothe ourselves in times of stress, sadness, despair, loneliness, and loss. Next to denial, emotional eating is the most-used and most basic coping mechanism to help us face those emotional states.
In addition to using food to help us during negative life circumstances, we also use food during times of joy and elation. Food is always a focal point in celebrations, and overindulgence of food is commonly expected in celebrations and joyous events.
Eating and our individual psychology are intimately woven together. Our psychological makeup as humans provides a very large push to be overweight.
From a sociological perspective food has always played a major role in organizing groups of people. People gathered together because of food, making eating a very powerful social catalyst.
Just like its utility as a psychological coping mechanism, food and eating have traditionally helped people cope with the natural nervousness of gathering together and socializing. It is much easier to meet new people and hold a conversation if food is there to take the complete focus away from facing people and forcing them to interact. In family life especially, eating has become one of the only times that the modern family gathers and communicates. Food has always provided families a common interest and a gathering place.