Addressing your fear of weight gain
Updated: Nov 15
In my latest post, I very briefly listed some way that one could look into when faced with the fear of weight gain. I then contextualized the fear by indicating that we live and breathe diet culture BS every day, and that it is therefore key to anchor our work in that reality (especially if you are recovering in a larger body since you are facing a significantly different reality).
A couple of you reached out to me expressing curiosity about the various ideas I listed in the first section of that post and so I figured I would expand a little bit on a few of those with the aim of helping you out a little more.
What and where you learn that you should fear weight gain
When did I learn this? It can sometimes help to realize how long we have lived under the control and influence of diet culture (and other systems of oppression) to understand why it feels so awkward and unfamiliar to consider alternative opinions. We deserve that understanding. And it can become a doorway to self-compassion.
Who taught me this? Go far and wide: from your family of origin to your friends growing up vs current social groups, the rules about dressing at school, the classes at school or uni, magazines, tv shows, social media, etc.
Who has benefitted from me believing this? Think: others feeling superior, taking advantage of you, selling you products or diets or gym memberships, etc.
Do you have proof that all of these statements about gaining weight or larger bodies are factual? Are you aware of alternative opinions out there? If your answer is no: please refer to the list of fabulous humans I shared in the last blog post to get acquainted with new facts and perspectives.
Being honest about the actual cost of trying to shrink your body or “manage your size/weight” in any way
Let’s say that your behaviours are effective at shrinking your body or “managing” its size. That doesn’t mean it’s all fun and no cost. My proof? You’re reading this. Let’s explore further though:
Has the weight loss given you access to all the promises made? There are certain promises that never quite get fulfilled. Either because “it’s not enough yet” or because those were made in relation to things that are beyond our control, or at the very least beyond any impact deriving from weight loss/”management”. And maybe to an extent it did fulfill some other promises (for eg we often receive praise when losing weight, or gain social power).
What other consequences does dieting have on your mental, physical and social health? If you are reading an ED recovery blog, you must have not found the net cost worth it. Sometimes we can notice this when we look at our mental health as our mood swings, we feel lower, and more anxious (that’s what happens to a hungry brain) or at our social health as we don’t give ourselves permission to join in, to eat with others, to be spontaneous, etc.
Noticing how what you value most about your loved ones doesn’t include their body (so why would it be different for you?)
This is the kind of question that can lead to such incredible conversations with clients. Most often, I will hear that, when it comes to long-term relationships that hold meaning, clients value traits such as openness, honesty, compassion, empathy, generosity, humour, loyalty, attentiveness, etc.
In other words: others’ bodies don’t make the cut. I’ve never had a client say “well, actually, I’m friends with Jo because of their perfectly shaped body.” And it really doesn’t feel like too much of a stretch to assume you wouldn’t either.
That being said, some might say: “yeah, but I still judge other people’s bodies” or “that’s ok for them, not me.” I’m going to rephrase this as such: “yeah but I have eyeballs and still seem to hold beliefs about the hierarchy of bodies” and “others are ok in larger bodies, not me.”
Which then gets me to ask the following:
What if you gave your brain more time to rewire
...and shift its reference points? We grew up in these oppressive systems that teach us about this hierarchy of bodies. We can consciously reject diet culture and anti-fat bias and ableism (and…) while still, unconsciously, having judgments and opinions on bodies. Name it all. You are not a bad person for having internalized what the world has repeatedly told you. You have a very functional brain, actually. And then, align your behaviours with your new conscious beliefs. In time, the rest can shift too.
...and get used to your changing body? Sometimes, we need (more) time to get used to our growing or changing body. Like moving into a new apartment and learning where the switches are to automatically reach for them. So sometimes there is a “gap” or “dissonance” between what we see and experience vs what is familiar to our brain. Again: give yourself some time. (and maybe, if relevant and safe: give yourself opportunities to explore and get to know your growing body.)
What if this has to do with the fact that you are struggling with an ED and something that would change with the process of healing? Honest truth: I used to have loads of opinions of others’ bodies and food choices. Because I was under the influence of diet culture and suffered from an eating disorder. That fundamentally changed as I journeyed through recovery. And I know many other recovery survivors who explored their own internalized fat-phobia/anti-fat bias share an incredibly similar story.
How special do you think you are? This is a tongue-in-cheek question. But as special and unique of a human that you are, I wholeheartedly believe that those who genuinely care for and love you see you through a similar lens that you see them. You are special. Not that special. Now you might still think "nah, I care about what others think of me and some for sure have opinions of my body." To this I want to ask: is it about caring about what they think of you or about fear that they might think of you like you think of yourself? Which is directly linked to the next point below.
How much might you be projecting on your own body? We often look at others in fundamentally different ways that ourselves because we hold our stories, and feelings (which could include shame or beliefs of “not being enough”) and it can be helpful to consider the possibility that this is about the difficulty of being ok with something about who we are (not our body).
A gentle nudge
If any of the above raised difficult points, please make sure to bring this up with your treatment team. And if you need help with exploring these as well as the next steps, including how to shift it into action (recovery goals), don’t hesitate to reach out to me!
My name is Anne-Claire Jedrzejczak and I am a certified eating disorder recovery coach, mental health advocate and recovery survivor.
I guide others every day through their disordered thought and behavioural patterns in order to help them build a fuller more authentic life - aligned with what they value and dream of.
If you are looking for a weight-neutral practitioner with practical tools to complete your existing team or build one with you, please do reach out through the contact form on this website!