Afraid of gaining weight recovery?
Updated: Nov 14
“I would do it, but I am afraid of gaining weight.”
I can’t tell you how often this is part of a client’s dialogue or a conversation in session.
This post is written as an add-on to the video we filmed with Meg and that is now available on YouTube.
Random background story: we were meant to film a video on the 5 reasons why people find it hard to commit to recovery. But then realized while exploring the first that we were going to end up with a 50-minute recording. So we cut it short. And it became its own standalone video. Which, to be fair, seems quite reasonable considering how often this topic is brought up.
Every time I hear a client share that they are scared of gaining weight, I want to say: “of course you are.”
Controlling our body size (read: making it as small and as palatable to others’ gaze) is something most of us have been taught is possible and important.
And in the context of eating disorder recovery, this is also often linked to the functions our symptoms and behaviours serve.
A side note on functions
Think of your ED as a part of you that is trying to do its job. Maybe that’s making you loveable, liked, accepted, seen, heard, cared for, feel special, feel numb, distracted,… because our disordered patterns serve functions, we have to address whether that function is actually still necessary today (maybe it used to be!) and/or how it can be replaced by other skills, tools, or ways of thinking. What is developed below directly addresses some of these functions & these are more directly addressed in our YouTube video on the topic!
Some ways to address your fear of weight gain
Exploring where you learned why weight gain is bad
Being honest about the actual cost of trying to shrink your body or “manage your size/weight” in any way
Seeking examples of people living fulfilling, authentic lives in all kinds of bodies (different sizes, shapes, colours, abilities, gender identities, etc)
Noticing how what you value most about your loved ones doesn’t include their body (so why would it be different for you?)
Drawing links between your core values and what you give your attention and energy to
Learning about the impact of cognitive biases on your thoughts, beliefs and your experiences
Questioning how much of your experience is driven by how you see yourself (if you're curious - read about the scar experiment)
Getting angry at diet culture and corporations that make money off of your insecurities and willingness to fix your body
Raging against patriarchy and how it directly profits from our attention being focused on how we look (instead of our rights, who we are, etc.)
Facing the statistics on long term weight loss (it’s not possible or effective and it certainly isn’t all about health either) as well as the effects of weight cycling (in short: yoyo-ing = bad for your health)
The goal here isn’t to list it all.
The goal is to get to the icky stuff, the pieces that deserve nuance and much more airtime (word-space?). ↓↓↓
The impact of anti-fat bias on the fear of weight gain.
Anti-fat bias is defined as the attitudes, behaviours, and social systems that specifically marginalise, exclude, underserve, and oppress fat bodies (1). Anti-fat bias thrives in a world ruled by diet culture since the latter values thinness and equates it with health as well as success, power and happiness. Anti-fat bias also makes it very clear that humans who don’t “fit in” (quite literally since they don’t even get served with the clothing options they deserve) are of lesser value.
Some of the items listed above will address anti-fat bias. And for some, the above will be enough.
But as much as anti-fat bias impacts most humans in ED recovery, it does immensely more so those recovering into a larger body. Whenever that is the case for a client, our conversations are fundamentally different. Because they have to be different. And I will often be spending lots of time in the trenches, asking questions and exploring my client’s answers with them, my curiosity and empathy leading me together with my knowledge. But I will never really, fully understand their experience. Simply because it isn’t one we share.
So I will often share about and refer to other brilliant activists and leaders in the space, who have taught me so much and who I hope my clients can learn from too.
Some of those fantastic humans are:
Brianna Campos' "body grievers" group is a fantastic resource for both knowledge and support from others who are sharing similar experiences and trying to navigate this diet-culture ridden world (find both free & paid options here)
Dr Asher Larmie - who is not only educating professionals but also empowering humans to advocate for themselves and get access to weight-inclusive care (website)
Vinny Welsby's pyramid representing the levels of anti-fat bias is something I will often go back to with clients & her presence on IG is just filled with gold when it comes to these topics
The Center for Body Trust's founders Hilary Kinavey and Dana Sturtevant are the authors or "Reclaiming Body Trust" which has been one of my best reads on the topic of body liberation in the past 1,5 years. They are also offer extra offerings that I have heard fab things about (website).
To be abundantly clear: exploring our internalised fat bias and the ways that we benefit or suffer from diet culture’s hierarchy of bodies is, in my opinion, important for all humans in recovery. This list isn’t just for those in larger bodies.
So please do yourself a favour and dip your toes in the work and social media presence of the humans listed above.
And when something strucks a chord inside of you (I bet it will): bring that up in sessions with your treatment team or someone who can explore and hold that space safely for you.
*Is this post missing pieces of the puzzle? Yes.
*Does this post deserve even more written words? Yes.
*Will I postpone publishing it? No. (vulnerability hangover incoming... but I chose to get back into blogging so here we go!)
Here is my gentle request:
Ask me those pesky questions that are in the back of your mind. Send me those thoughts that you can't quite make peace with. Invite me to expand on any of the above. Leave it all in the comments or send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you would like to explore any of those ways to address your fear of weight gain further: please reach out. 1:1 re.charge calls are available for those who wish to focus on 1 area of work and I have a few slots available every month!
Ref: (1) “I’m a Fat Activist. I Don’t Use the Word ‘Fatphobia.’ Here’s Why” by Aubrey Gordon, published on www.self.com