This blog is a guest blog, written by Jim LaPierre, author of the insightful BDN blog, Recovery Rocks. In my capacity as a weight loss mentor people always say to me, “tell me what to eat,” as though weight is all about the food, and for a few people it is. For more of us, it’s how we use food to cope. Some of us even use being overweight as a kind of safety shield. Losing weight is often losing the shield and sometimes the feelings that come with it aren’t altogether positive.
Losing weight is a Game Changer
In most change processes, there are manifest and latent aspects. The manifest is the thing you meant to do and the latent in some stuff you didn’t intend or even necessarily want. It just… happens…
Dealing with the unknown and unexpected can leave us feeling emotionally raw and vulnerable.
The clearest example I’ve seen is with women I’ve served who adopted a new lifestyle in order to become healthier physically and emotionally. Many of them went from being obese to being average size (14-16) or even thin. What they wanted to manifest was having more energy and less depression, more self acceptance and less of an adversarial relationship with their bodies.
What they did for themselves is remarkable and admirable. What they received from others is often more of a mixed bag. Change is difficult to accept, not only for the individual who chooses it, but also by folks who are resistant to their status quo being altered.
Resistance is always a manifestation of fear.
Many of their female family members and friends seemed jealous or even unkind. Seeing the investments others make forces us to look at ourselves.
The more unexpected (and often unwanted) twist in the journey of these women was moving from being relatively invisible aesthetically to being frequently noticed and even objectified by men.
Subconsciously, (and unfortunately) a high percentage of us tend to categorize people who are significantly overweight as asexual. If we do not view them as potential or desirable partners, our interactions will often reflect that we’ve placed a lower value on their worth holistically.
Physical attractiveness is a form of social currency. As folks make strong advancements in their physical health, their currency sometimes goes from rags to riches. If you want the wealth, you’re free to enjoy it (though it is still likely to be a stressful transition fraught with pitfalls).
The more difficult scenario is faced by those who do not want the increased attention to their physical selves and/or feel unsafe receiving it.
For those of us who survived any form of abuse or assault (sexual or otherwise) to stand out may feel like a dangerous form of exposure/vulnerability. For many of us (usually unwittingly), being heavy was a way of hiding – of not drawing attention that we’re unsure what to do with.
If we do not resolve these feelings and experiences within ourselves, we are likely to regress and gain back the weight we’ve lost. We associate our sense of security and well being with what’s most familiar to us. We may therefore find ourselves self sabotaging as a means to get back into our comfort zones (feeling safe in our own skin).
Bringing this conflict into the open can be difficult. We may fear that talking about the attention will leave us sounding vain or as though we’re complaining about something that other’s desperately want.
As with any major adjustment, we are wise to seek the guidance and input of those who have weathered the same storms. As difficult as it may be to tolerate the vulnerability required to share our struggles, to not share them is to risk implosion.
I often urge folks to identify the advice they’d give to a friend in their shoes. I then urge them to follow that advice because it is based in a simple but overwhelmingly powerful truth:
You are worth it.
Reach out. Connect. From what I’ve witnessed amongst those I serve, the success of Weight Watchers is good people who come together for a brief half hour meeting each week. They have one thing in common which is learning how to positively change their relationship with food and their bodies. They encourage, support, identify, relate and celebrate. We share what’s worked for us because we know that the only way we get to keep our growth and healing is to facilitate it in others.
For more good stuff from Jim that helps sort out why food isn’t the problem, it’s the way we use it, follow Jim on Twitter @JimLaPierre and subscribe to Recovery Rocks.