My Mother, My Father, My Money

Money and its loaded issues.

Is it our maternal destiny to be fat?

Are we doomed to be fat?

It seems as if there is no end to silly articles about obesity.

Now the NY Times informs us that this obesity epidemic starts early on - maybe even in the womb! And do you know what else? Environmental factors may trigger and activate genetic predispositions to obesity.


"More and more evidence points to pivotal events very early in life - during the toddler years, infancy and even before birth, in the womb - that can set young children on an obesity trajectory that is hard to alter by the time they're in kindergarten. "But the evidence is not ironclad," the gray lady warns, "but it suggests that prevention efforts should start very early."

The venerable newspaper even suggests that cherished cultural attitudes about plump, healthy babies need to be re-thought. It is recommended even that mothers lose weight before pregnancy to lower their risk of gestational diabetes, because that may over-nourish the child in utero. Heavens!

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As they say, if it's not one thing it's your mother.

Did it ever occur to anyone that food today is cheaper than at anytime in the history of mankind? The sheer quantities of it are excessive and there is enormous incentive on nearly everyone's part -- financial, emotional and instinctual -- to keep people eating. Perhaps that is why people are so heavy?

It sometimes feels as if 250 million American citizens are sitting in the backseat on a long car trip to grandma and the corporate parents, the titans of the agri-business, just keep throwing junk food or junk entertainment to keep the kids happy, read: sedated.

In order to withstand temptation, people concerned about their weight may do well with a two-pronged approach: For one, think of food as a sedative. Most people, when they overeat, are eating their feelings. A person on the verge of overeating might ask himself: what am I eating, what am I sedating? Is he eating his rage, his  sexual desire? And when it comes to overfeeding children, he again may ask, which of their feelings is he not able to tolerate?

But that won't be enough. After all, food is not just a sedative. It is an enormous pleasure. People are not known to give up pleasures. However, people do seem to be able to substitute one pleasure for another. They will substitute the pleasure of eating for the pleasure of looking and feeling good. They will even consider giving up a pleasurable vice in order to get love and recognition and ultimately more pleasure.

This is perhaps what Freud had in mind when he coined the term, "pleasure principle" --only the salvation lay in generously cultivating it, and taking it further.


Simon Feuerman is a psychotherapist and is Director for the New Center for Advanced Psychotherapy Studies at Kean University in New Jersey.


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