Emotions, Eating, and Obesity

at the airport last month

People can become famous for being overweight. Or for losing weight. Or, like film actors, can suffer the scrutiny of a censorious public whose eyeballs are glued to every ounce they gain.

YouTube comedian and actor Shane Dawson lost over 150 pounds, an accomplishment which a supporter known as Mukesh M featured on his website. The celebrity is quoted here:

I think honestly, losing weight is about eating less and exercise but I think it’s more of a mental situation. For me it was, because I was always an emotional eater. But then I started making Youtube videos and I was putting so much effort into it that I just stopped thinking about it (that I was over weight) and I was kind of putting my emotions in the right place; a creative place. I mean just do something you really like doing instead of focusing on negative things.

Aside from channeling energy in a creative direction, sane eating, and physical activity, Dawson advises people, for the sake of their metabolism, to breathe consciously:

It’s very simple, take a deep breath so your belly inflates; now release the breath slowly so that your exhaling is 2 seconds longer than the inhaling. So if you inhaled for 5 seconds, exhale slowly so it reaches 7 seconds.

Speaking of emotional issues, it must be difficult for a slim person to be friends with someone whose battle against obesity is a constant and very public struggle. Such is the fate of Oprah Winfrey’s bestie, Gayle King. What is it like to be the slim sidekick of a woman like Winfrey, for whom every bite is a battle? Does King studiously avoid any mention of weight or size? Does she wear baggy clothes to soothe Winfrey’s feelings? Does Winfrey make remarks about girls who are skinny as sticks?

Unfortunately, when interviewing King for The New York Times, Andrew Goldman did not ask those particular questions. Instead, he harkened back to an earlier interview in which King had said that if Oprah were a man, she would marry her. The interviewer remarked that he could not imagine that being married to Oprah would be easy. King replied:

Well, you’d be incorrect. What I meant by that is that she has all the qualities you would want in a spouse: somebody who is successful, who cheers you on, understands you, cares about you, supports you, who’s honest with you. There’s nothing difficult about her. Nothing.

Good to know! But still, a fan can’t help being a bit curious about whether the two friends go clothes shopping together, or how the decision-making process goes when they have lunch together.

Comparing these two celebrities, a rather obscure comedian, and one of the most famous women in the world, it becomes obvious once again that different things work for different people. Being involved in an exciting creative project that he cared about, helped Shane Dawson find satisfaction in life that he had formerly only discovered in food.

But Oprah Winfrey has dozens of creative projects to be absorbed in. She certainly has every opportunity to get involved in meaningful activities that are important to her, and is beyond doubt a very positive person indeed. Yet for her, the Dawson formula doesn’t seem to do the trick. As Liz Snyder has said, “We are ALL emotional eaters,” and this disparity only goes to show once more that a wide variety of solutions are may be needed for all kinds of people.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “How Did Shane Dawson Lose Weight?,” OutOfStress.com, 05/05/11
Source: “Watch The Throne,” The New York Times, 05/27/12
Image by irina slutsky.

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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