Fear of Gaining Weight? Have you heard of Obesophobia?

Growing up throughout the 90s and 00s, being ‘thin’ and ‘skinny’ was the height of fashionable. Think of people who were popular at the time – Kate Moss, for example. The dangers of undereating and what that could do to your physical body, must lessen what it can do to your psyche were so much less well-documented as they are today.

Over time, the landscape has completely changed to be much more inclusive, a body positive movement sweeping across the world (Lizzo on the front cover of Vogue, anyone?). However, there are a select group of people in the world who not only believe that thinner is better, but who are actually scared of becoming fat.

We’re not talking about worrying about a few pounds here or there following a diet slip or a blowout – these people actually have a phobia of it. It’s called Obesophobia.


What Is Obesophobia?

Obesophobia refers to an abnormal fear of gaining weight. The word obesophobia originated from Greek words ‘obese’ (meaning fat) and ‘phobia’ (meaning fear). People suffering from this phobia may develop other psychological disorders such as anorexia (denying eating), bulimia (throwing up right after eating). They also may feel uncomfortable around those who are overweight or obese.

Obesophobia, just like other phobias, can arise from a combination of traumatic events and internal thoughts. A person who has been bullied in the past for being large in the past may suffer from this phobia. However, genetics, and the chemistry of the brain when combined together with life experiences play a crucial role in the development of Obesophobia.

I spoke to Jade, 22 who told me: “I have not been diagnosed with Obesophobia, but it certainly sounds like something I could have. I didn’t have a good time at school and was bullied badly because I was a bit chubby. I lost the weight around the age of 18 and since then have worked hard to keep it off. I’m not anorexic or bulimic, but I do suffer from anxiety around eating ‘too much’ and worry I’m going to get fat again. I wish I could just be happy in my own skin”.



What Are The Symptoms of Obesophobia?

People who are following even a healthy diet regime are likely not suffering from Obesophobia. Obesophobic people may starve themselves to just stay in shape and follow a strict diet plan or tend to workout excessively. Like those who are anorexic, they may be extremely concerned about putting on weight, while in reality they are likely either maintaining their weight or losing it.

Someone with Obesophobic will often have less confidence and very low self-esteem. Their fear of putting on weight can make them socially awkward and prevent them from getting into a healthy relationship with others. As an example of an awkward social situation, Obesophobic people may not be able to eat anything cooked by others due to the fear of not knowing all of the ingredients and number of calories and therefore may carry their own food wherever they go, leading to potential insulting of a host.


How To Get Better

It would definitely be worth getting in touch with your GP if you’re feeling any of the symptoms above. They will likely suggest a course of talking therapy, to get to the root of why you feel this was.

If you perpetually measure your worth by your weight, it is your mindset that needs to change first – not your body. You are not what’s on the outside – it’s the inside that counts.

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