The many links between developmental trauma, dysfunctional eating, and weight are becoming clearer. This new research builds on the ACE’s (adverse child experience) findings to further demonstrate how deeply ingrained coping behaviors involving food can lead to resistant weight and binge eating. The researchers conclusion is that when dysfunctional eating patterns begin young they can become ingrained parts of your personality. What this means is that change must go beyond standard nutrition and weight loss advice.
If you had difficult early life experiences, the good news is that this adds valuable insight to your understanding of why diets haven’t worked. And it points the way toward addressing your eating and weight from a psychological perspective.
Trauma, and particularly developmental trauma, can be difficult to talk about, and you may not even be aware of some of the events that caused it. Not getting enough breast milk in your earliest days of life, being put on a diet as a pre-teen, moving schools multiple times, or having loving parents who were not emotionally literate, for instance, may not fit the idea of adverse experience in your mind yet can have lasting impact. If you are struggling with dysfunctional eating or resistant weight it’s worth investigating if psychological interventions could help.
“While the biological and environmental causes of obesity are well known, psychological determinants that might indicate chronic predispositions are less clear,” explained lead investigator Barbara Basile, PhD, Association of Cognitive Psychology (APC), School of Cognitive Psychotherapy (SPC), Rome, Italy. “The results of our study suggest that dysfunctional eating patterns and habits associated with overweight and obesity are deeply rooted within patients’ personality features and current interventions are not enough to guarantee a long-lasting effect.”
Among study participants, overeating and bingeing behaviors served as self-soothing strategies when they experienced feelings of abandonment (the belief others will be unavailable or unpredictable in their support or connection); dependence/incompetence (the belief that one has failed, or will fail in important life areas of achievement); and subjugation (the belief that one must surrender control to others), as well as to quiet internalized Punitive Parent voices (inner dialogue that is self-blaming, punishing, and abusive that causes one to detach emotionally and reject help)