Initially, the thought of letting go of diets and rigid food rules is exciting (although a little nerve wracking). There is eagerness to learn intuitive eating skills, free up brain space and live fulfilled lives away from food and body obsession.
So please know that if you have this fear, you are so not alone.
Ultimately, there is no way to know for sure if your weight will go up, down or stay the same on your recovery journey. It’s not as black-and-white as you might think though. Eating more doesn’t automatically mean your body fat stores will increase. This is because determinants of body weight are multi factorial and include metabolism, genetics, stress and environmental factors too. It’s certainly not as simple as calories in, calories out.
8 tips to overcome the fear of weight gain
1. Know that your fear of weight gain is normal and makes sense
Your feelings are so valid and your desire for weight manipulation makes sense given the culture we live in; a culture where the pursuit of weight loss is heralded as so valuable.
Just knowing diets don’t work, doesn’t mean the desire for weight loss will go away. It does not mean than media and brands are backing off on weight loss messaging. Or that friends and family aren’t still making comments or engaging in their own diets.
It’s ok to know that weight loss diets don’t work but still feel unsure about giving up the pursuit. You’re allowed to be in the grey. You can “sit in the suck” and keep reflecting and exploring options.
2. Reflect on how the pursuit of weight loss has affected your life
Grab a pen and paper and write down how dieting has affected:
– your use of time and money
What does this reflection reveal to you?
3. Identify the root of your fear of weight gain
The fear is never just weight gain, there are always factors underlying this.
In the words of Carolyn Costin, “body image work is like a check-engine light. Turning off the light (weight -loss) doesn’t address the root issue. We have to look under the hood to discover where the issues stem from.”
What is the story you are telling yourself about gaining weight? Does it mean you have failed? Or do you hold beliefs that it would make you less healthy, attractive, desireable, loveable?
4. Have a chat with your fear
Get curious about what your fear might be trying to protect you from. And find ways to challenge it.
ie. Do you fear that gaining weight would make you less likeable? You can test the validity of this by asking yourself
“Would I like someone less just because of their body size?” and “Do I want to attract people into my life who value people for their body size?”
5. Explore the reasons why you may be holding onto a desire for weight loss
People don’t just want weight loss. They want what weight loss can GET them.
If I could wave a magic wand, and give you the mind and body you always wanted, how would your life be different?⠀ ⠀
Think sex, movement, social life, relationships, self-confidence, health, work? ⠀
Now THESE are something really important for you. Your roadmaps! The road maps to your true desires, and things to work towards achieving. Because behind weight loss, these are the things you GENUINELY want. ⠀ ⠀
It’s time to consider what’s actually in your control. Because weight loss isn’t a behaviour and the current evidence shows body weight isn’t nearly as under our individual control as diet culture tells us. So what behaviours CAN you engage in to work towards your desires? These are the things you CAN do in the here and now to say a big F you to weight stigma and diet culture, and focus on doing the things that really matter to YOU.
6. Curate and diversify your social media feeds
Research shows how strongly social media can affect body image and the way we feel about ourselves.
If you are spending a significant chunk of time consuming media containing highly-curated, unrealistic images then this is something to evaluate.
Conversely, filling your feeds with people of diverse body shapes and sizes, promoting positive body image can be extremely helpful in re-framing the way you see yourself.
7. Consider what else you stand to gain
8. Continue to reflect and learn
It’s ok if you’re not sure how you feel or where you sit right now. What’s awesome is that you have the self-awareness to explore that further. There is much to learn about body acceptance, fat phobia and all the intersectionalities that tie into body image work. Recognise it as a process that is not linear but one you can always keep learning & growing.
You can read more about body image and acceptance in this article.