Is Fear Making You Keep the Weight On

Most people I encounter have a love/hate relationship with weight loss. On one hand, they love the sense of accomplishment that comes with setting a weight loss goal and achieving it. On the other hand, weight loss can be scary. Most of my clients who struggle with their weight feel invisible. While they hate this, they are TERRIFIED of actually being seen. Many of them have a history of sexual trauma and feel safe because being invisible means that you aren’t seen as a sexual being. At least, that is what they think. By losing weight and becoming more visible, the fear then becomes, “what if someone wants to be in a physical relationship with me?”. When you have never had a sexual relationship that has felt safe, this is very threatening.

Other issues with fears around weight loss include a sense of losing your identity. If you have seen yourself a certain way for most of your life, changing what you see is intimidating. Because weight has been so tied to your self-esteem, you are afraid of changing what you know. You know you aren’t happy with where you are now, but at least it is familiar. One fear I hear frequently is, “What if I lose weight and people still don’t want to date me?”. What I say to this now is that it isn’t weight that is preventing dating. It is YOU that is preventing dating. When you close yourself off to people, that doesn’t exactly communicate that you are interested in getting to know them. I know people who are single at every weight. It is more about attitude. Own who you are, where you are. Confidence is the sexiest thing you can put on!

The other main fear I see is around changing the relationship with food. If food has been your main source of comfort and coping, making lifestyle changes that would promote weight loss means changing how you eat. To most, this means giving up any food that tastes good. This is simply not the case. By learning the tools to deal with emotions without using food and learning to listen to your body, you can still eat the foods you love. The difference is that you don’t NEED them to cope with life. You eat them because they taste good and they fuel your ability to LIVE life.

Lastly, what happens after you lose weight? A big fear is often, “What if I gain it back?”. I hear this come up a lot. Clients are afraid that they will look or feel like a failure if they lose weight and gain it back. Or, they have done this many times and sabotage their efforts before they begin because they are so fearful of repeating the pattern. Instead of beating yourself up, what can you learn from each of the times you lost weight and gained it back? What are the warning signs that you would be slipping back in to old patterns? What were the triggers to eat when you weren’t hungry? Did you actually change your relationship with food or were you just engaging in extreme behaviors for a period of time to lose weight? This is the one I see more often than not.  Most people can lose weight on any diet, but most are too extreme to maintain. When you change that relationship with food mentioned earlier and make sustainable lifestyle changes, you will be able to keep the weight loss.

By learning to challenge these fears, you can learn to live an enjoyable life instead of living in fear. Only then will you feel good about yourself no matter what size you wear.

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Weber State University and a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Utah. She has been working in the mental health field since 2001.
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