As a child I was chubby and constantly picked on at school. Depressed, I turned to food for comfort, which made the problem worse. My parents are obese too and don’t eat healthily either. Now I am in my mid-20s and 1.62m tall but weigh 102kg. I’m scared I’ll never find anyone to love me because of this. I hate myself and my looks but cannot stick to any diet for more than a few days. What should I do?

Like many weight issues, the cause of yours is probably far more complex than simply overeating. Trying to lose weight before dealing with those emotional triggers that make you turn to food for comfort means you are actually setting yourself up to fail. This feeling of failure then drives that need to fill the void and the cycle of ‘feel bad… need to eat’ begins all over again. Changing what’s going on in your mind is the only way to successfully lose weight.

You say ‘I hate myself’ and I feel that whether you lose weight or don’t, this feeling of self-loathing would still be there. It’s this you have to deal with first. You have gone through some difficult times as a child. Bullying is always damaging and though I’m sure your parents were loving, they have been complicit in developing your eating habits.

But you are an adult now, and there is only one person with the responsibility for controlling your life and that’s you. The key to changing is to make a choice. You can choose to be unhappy or you can choose to do something about it. The minute you start to make these positive choices and put yourself in the driving seat of your own life is the minute you’ll begin the process of change.

So where might you start? 
A professional counsellor can help you to explore those connections that have been created between emotional distress and eating. At the same time there’s so much you can do for yourself too. Make a start by focusing on everything else about you that doesn’t involve your weight. Simply defining yourself in a different way will lead to a more positive mindset. What are your good qualities, what are your talents? You don’t refer to any of these and that would suggest that you are not valuing what others no doubt see in you.

Build in small challenges for yourself and to begin with make them unrelated to food. Think about something you’d like to accomplish, no matter how small, and go all out to achieve it. You need to feel the power of being successful to build up your confidence. Then you can change the way you eat.

Remember, new behaviours take time to embed. If you’re looking for instant weight loss, it simply doesn’t exist in any healthy form. Come to terms with this, create short-term plans that add up to long-term goals and you’ll ensure change that lasts a lifetime.