If our weight was the problem, diets would fix us. More significant are the problems that weight loss obsession may keep us from addressing.
Almost every woman we see in the media is as thin as a rail, glammed to the nines, and smiling.
Almost every food we’re sold by the media is loaded with fat, sugar, and salt – the unholy trinity that keeps us trapped in the cycle of craving, binge, and regret.
It’s no wonder so many of us feel so nuts.
There is a small handful of gals who can live in a culture like this without constantly feeling badly about their bodies, abusing themselves, and/or living from one get-thin-quick scheme to the next.
The few who don’t waste time in weight obsession are more likely to be living their purpose, enjoying themselves, and sucking the marrow from life – regardless of what they weigh.
More and more, the rest of us grow into self-criticizing, weight-obsessed lunatics, flitting from diet to diet in a crazed effort to “fix” what we have come to believe is our biggest problem: our weight.
As an adult who’s been over 300 pounds and who’s gotten down to and maintains a size 8, 1 I can tell you that our weight is almost never the problem. The problem – if there is one – is less obvious.
So long as we labor under the illusion that our weight is the problem, most of us are bound to sabotage whatever effort we make to lose it.
If we’re focused on losing weight, we will gain weight. 2
IF we’re overweight and IF that feels problematic, we can lose weight 3 in a healthy and sustainable way if we look at and begin to heal the REAL problems that may be causing our bodies to cling to excess fat, problems of which our weight may be little more than a symptom:
1- Physical Illness
Physical illness is a problem, and in a handful of cases, one that can result in weight gain. Hypothyroidism and Cushing’s Disease are two illnesses that can cause weight gain. Once diagnosed, both are treatable. Neither is treated with weight loss diets.
2- Mental Illness
Mental illness is a problem, and the Taylor Swift of mental health diagnoses – Depression – can inspire weight gain. Depression is treatable with therapy and medication, but studies suggest that taking loving action 4 is just as, if not more, effective. Then there’s addiction, 5 compulsions, 6 and disorders like Binge Eating Disorder. In none of these conditions is weight the “problem,” though admittedly it’s a oft-occurring symptom.
3- Side Effects
Side effects of medications are a problem, and some antidepressants, steroids, high blood pressure and anti-seizure medications may cause weight gain. In most cases, alternative medications are available.
Neglect is a problem that can contribute to unwanted weight gain, and it can be the result of mental illness, poverty and/or limitations (real or imagined) on other resources. Neglect is not getting adequate medical care, or not meeting the body’s most fundamental needs. Depending on the reason for the neglect, the solution might be as simple as a re-ordering of priorities, or as complex as a total re-imagining of the social service structure of a nation.
Self-abuse is a problem that causes much of our unwanted weight gain. Because we live in a market-driven culture that revolves around hard 7work, consumption, and convenience, self-abuse is sometimes mis-labeled “pleasure.” Sadly, labeling what we do in our off-time “pleasure” doesn’t make stuffing our bodies full of toxic crap, drinking to excess, smoking, popping pills, or going way out of our way to not move our bodies any less damaging, and ultimately, painful. 8
Then there’s the moment we finally say “screw this” after years of failed dieting attempts, because we’re so freaking sick of wasting our precious time trying to lose weight and having even “diets that work” ultimately not work that we need to put that shit aside so we can think about something else for once.
This is not a problem. This is a blessing.
The “screw it” place is a gift. Here we finally accept that dieting does not work, and that focusing on losing weight – or on maintaining weight loss – all but guarantees that we won’t lose it, or we’ll gain it back, and then some.
We need to be done with diets so we can love our bodies, and use that love to do what we need to do to heal the problems of which our weight may only be a symptom.
Go ahead – get angry.
Angry at the diets.
Angry at the empty promises.
Angry for all the time you’ve been angry at your body, when that beautiful body has always deserved your love.
Then inhabit the love.
And then begin to heal.
- Size 8-ish. I’d tell you what I weigh, but I don’t know. Getting on the scale makes things, like what I do to take care of myself, about weight, and as soon as it’s about weight, I begin to lose touch of WHY I do all the things I do to take care of myself. My WHY is that I feel more comfortable in my body and more peaceful in my head when I make healthier choices consistently, and my ability to keep making those kinds of choices depends on my ability to not get trapped in weight obsession. You should try it sometime. It works. ↩
- Most of us will, anyway. There are no absolutes – absolutely none. ↩
- Most of us can. Again with the absolutes. ↩
- Like eating nourishing food in nourishing ways, and moving the body in meaningful ways every day. ↩
- Namely food & sugar addiction. ↩
- Namely compulsive overeating. ↩
- Read: stressful. ↩
- Believe you me, if eating crap, drinking, smoking and pill popping wasn’t ultimately harmful and painful, I’d be the first in line for all of it, all the time, every day. So sad. So sad. ↩
A co-worker suggested that I check you out. I like what I have been reading so far.
Thanks, Tammy 🙂
I’m sorry I missed the registration for Pleasure Principles-trust me, I had an oh so valid reason. I will read your blog religiously until you kick off your fall class.
BAM! Terrific! And if there’s anything I can do for you in the meantime, hit me up with the contact form below.
It should come as no shock to me that I’d become instantly addicted to someone named Coffey. Having lost 105 lbs in the past year through WW and exercise, I’m down to 6s and 4s, thrilled with what my body can now do (70 mile bike rides, crossfit, lunging up bridges, etc), basking in the constant compliment glow, and surprisingly (?), struggling with depression and completely unable to see my body as others do, unless it’s in a photo, and then I’m left wondering if it was just a good angle..
Carolyn! Thank you for taking the time to write that. God almighty, isn’t it the truth, though? It’s amazing how hard we’re being pushed to do things by people who don’t know how difficult it is to change, and who have no idea what awaits us on the other side. It’s also amazing how often we listen to those people without question, and when we feel badly, or its hard, or we feel like we’ve been gypped, we assume it’s because of a flaw in us, and not the system itself, and the lack of support, and true understanding. Guh.
Kisses all over your beautiful head.
Over the years (I won’t say how many) I’ve found the most successful of people in the gym, measured by truly changing their health and physique, are the people who’ve hit some sort of rock-bottom. I’ve found that in times of despair people are able to reenvision themselves and make long-lasting changes that define them. There are exceptions to this, but not many.
I’m with you on on that, Adam, for sure.
This is the truth! I have gone from size 6 to size 22 and up and down have tried every diet to only hit 300 pounds. I hit rock bottom had a nervous breakdown (life stresses childhood crap) and with help from my therapist and a low dose of antidepressants I am learning to love myself 🙂 I have dropped 2 sizes in a month and have been going to the gym 3-4 times a week and started nourishing my body in all aspects. To think ive had the wrong approach this whole time, and I eat way more now and more regularly in the day and I’am losing faster than I ever had! Diets dont work
Thanks for taking the time to write, Jodi!