Can Childhood Events Affect Weight Control as Adults?

I usually try to inject some sort of humor into these entries but today I am posting a very serious one. The subject is inspired by a very powerful documentary we watched last night on HBO entitled ‘Leaving Neverland”. The 4-hour film chronicled the stories of several young men that have recently claimed that the deceased Pop star, Michael Jackson, sexually abused them as children. Most of us probably remember the stories a number of years ago about alleged abuse by Jackson of young boys at his sprawling “Neverland” ranch. Jackson was actually arrested at that time and a trial eventually exonerated him from the charges. The 2 men interviewed for the movie had denied the abuse for years, testifying on behalf of Jackson that nothing wrong happened. Only recently did the two men come out with what they are saying is the truth, i.e. that Jackson sexually abused them for years.

Stories that chronicled Michael Jackson’s life almost always include a very nasty childhood that included much abuse by his controlling father. There is not any mention of sexual abuse but certainly lots of stories of beatings and psychological abuse. The fact that Michael Jackson did not experience a true childhood most likely contributed lots to his need/desire to be around children. The psychological scars from the abuse he experienced probably played a large role in his behaviors later in life.

Why am I posting this information in an informative weight control blog? Over the years, I have had many patients tell me that to a large extent, their weight control problems/angst/anxiety was caused by parents hounding them about their weight. I had one patient tell me that as a child, he was forced to go one summer to a “fat camp” and his parents wrote with paint on his stomach ‘Don’t Feed Me”. There have been many female patients that inform me that pretty much every day growing up they were admonished by their mothers about how bad they looked because of their weight..

These cases are not of a sexual abuse nature, but rather, deeply scarring from a psychological standpoint. To move forward, as per the two men last night, it is important to face head on the truth of what abuse transpired and then receive help. Over the years, I have referred a number of patients to psychologists because their weight control struggles were much more than not knowing how many proteins to eat each day. After becoming comfortable, the patients would tell me stories about how growing up, parents/relatives/friends would make them feel very bad about their weight control struggles. This emotional stress lasted way past childhood.

The point of this entry: If you feel that events that transpired in your younger years may be contributing to long term weight control struggles, please keep open to the potential of counseling. I know that there still exists a certain stigma to psychological intervention but there should not be. Feel free to contact me directly at: to arrange for a confidential, no cost discussion, about your specific circumstances and what we can do to get you some additional help if needed.

Dr. Robert Posner One of the world’s leading medical weight loss researchers, Robert Posner, MD, operates his state-of-the-art weight loss clinic, Serotonin Plus, in the heart of Burke, Virginia, in the suburban Washington area.

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