Weight Issues, Trauma and Health; How the “Wrong” Question Changed Health Care
Weight Issues, Trauma and Health. Now that is a strange blog title, I know, and provocative too, I admit it. It is however, a part of a true story that you may already know a bit about, but I wanted to share what I discovered about out how a simple “mistake” initiated a discovery that is changing the way the world views not only the issues of weight loss and obesity, but health in its entirety. I believe it is the most powerful scientific evidence we have that health is the direct result of mind-body-emotion interactions. For many alternative and complementary health care professionals, and especially EFT practitioners, this is old news, but for much of the world, it is still revolutionary.
Personally I have known about and written about the ACE studies (link) for many years, but it was not until recently when I was asked to be interviewed for the upcoming Tapping for Weight Loss film documentary with John Gabriel and Carol Look that I discovered the most interesting aspect of the back-story that makes this paradigm-changing study so remarkable.
Many readers have probably heard of Dr Vincent Felitti, the pioneer of the ACE, or Adverse Childhood Experiences studies. Briefly, the original ACE study of 17,000 patients as well as the 60 ensuing studies, (including over 440,000 participants to date), have revolutionized the public health paradigm that explores the powerful relationship between adverse or traumatic childhood events/experiences and adult health. He termed this epidemic of profound implications, the “Intergenerational Transmission of Adversity.”
The ACE studies, have been replicated by many states in the US and around the world, all of which continue to shed light on this important relationship between negative life experiences and health. The ACE tests are scored by giving 1 point for each of the following ten scenarios, including: any of three types of abuse (including sexual, verbal and physical), five types of family dysfunction; (a parent with mental illness or alcoholism, a mother who’s a domestic violence victim, a family member who’s been in jail and the loss of a parent through divorce or abandonment). Two categories were added later, including emotional and physical neglect.
Here is just a sliver of the information mined by this treasure of a study; two out of three adults in the original study had experienced at least one type of ACE. With each increasing incremental ACE point, the likelihood of another event grew significantly. When subjects had four or more points, the impacts on adult health became dumbfounding. One of every six subjects studied had a score of 4 or more points and at this level, women for example, had a 60% chance of suffering chronic depression (35% for men), subjects were twice as likely to smoke tobacco, seven times more likely to be alcoholic and twelve times more likely to have attempted suicide, as well as having dramatically increased risks of STDs, liver, chronic respiratory and heart disease.
You may, as I stated, have heard about the work of Drs Felitti and Anda, but to paraphrase Paul Harvey, now it’s time you heard the rest of the story.
Returning to 1985, Dr. Felitti had been running the Kaiser obesity clinic for five years. The program was going well by many standards as far as individuals, many weighing upwards of 400 and 500 pounds, losing significant amounts of weight. What troubled him was why more than half the patients dropped out of the program. So he began to look into their medical histories for answers. He was surprised to find many things in his medical records research, such as most all the drop outs had normal birth rates and that most of their weight gain happened fairly suddenly rather than over long periods of time. When the program drop out individuals tended to lose weight would regain it quickly back to their usual weight level.
He continued to dig deeper, interviewing many of these patients, personally asking about their medical history including their sexual history. But it wasn’t until he was querying a young woman about her sexual history and began to ask her how old she was at the time of your first sexual experience? That wasn’t what came out of his mouth. In a confused (brilliant?) moment he asked her how much she weighed when she first became sexually active, to which she responded, “40 pounds.” Confounded by her response he asked her again, upon which she added that it was with her father when she was 4 years old. That lightning-bolt moment led him to similar questioning of other patients and collaborations with other colleagues in the program who found nearly half of the next 286 obesity clinic patients had endured some form of childhood sexual abuse.
Shocked by what he had stumbled onto, he continued to find cases of significant weight gain following childhood, adolescent and adult trauma. He discovered in his interviews, two very important emotion/belief realizations:
- Eating food soothes fear, anxiety, chronic stress, depression, anger…that all may remain persistent and get stronger when not alleviated by the self-soothing effect of eating. The root of many of these emotions, as we know, often began with familial and early life experiences that in a way, become wired into our neural circuitry that can often be continually triggered, and for which a person seeks relief from. Of course food is only one method of self-soothing, there are of course many other self-medicating behaviors such as alcohol, tobacco as well as other activities which may be complicit with addictive behaviors.
- That being overweight was not the problem, it was The Answer. Being overweight kept danger at bay; it prevented unwanted sexual attention, it kept people who had been harmed in various ways, invisible…and Safe.
It was his conclusion that people don’t get fat because they don’t know any better. It is likely that some type of trauma marks the starting point of the path to obesity.
So what are some of the takeaway lessons here? I think there are many.
- That there are no stupid questions and perhaps there are no mistakes!
- That as adults, our health is not merely determined by some genetic blueprint, we are the sum total of our experiences, all of which have the potential to impact us emotionally, neurologically, cognitively, physically and from my perspective, energetically as well.
- To take this one step further, the experiences we are exposed to as children, especially negative and harmful ones, as acted out by parents/caregivers are commonly rooted from their childhood experiences as acted out by their parents/caregivers and so on. The notion of inter-generational healing of emotional/physical interplay becomes of paramount significance as we look to what it takes to heal ourselves, our families, our community and our planet.
- Such healing can happen in many forms, I have a personal and professional perspective that suggests that variations of EFT Tapping or Meridian Tapping is a profoundly effective way to begin implementing the findings of these ACE studies and would love to see greater research and clinical opportunities that allows such collaborations to occur.
For those interested in taking the original ACE questionnaire or implementing it into their practice, here is THE LINK to the CDC website for the male and female versions that are available for use with permission.
Craig Weiner, DC. is a chiropractor and EFT Universe trainer who has studied and written extensively about the mind-body-experience relationship. More information can be found at www. EFTtappingTraining.com