Now that I’ve got your attention, I need to be honest: this trick isn’t one-size-fits-all. It’s a specific fix for one big challenge I see undermining people’s success at keeping off the weight they’ve lost—or at keeping the weight loss rolling once they’ve started having progress. Ready? Welcome the change.
Are you underwhelmed? Don’t be! You might not believe how often people’s resistance to change works against their positive goals. No matter how unhappy you feel in an overweight body, there are aspects of that version of yourself that you’re used to—and when your body changes, so do some of those things.
Some examples I’ve heard over the years:
- People who have gained weight in the wake of a trauma sometimes wear fat like a protective armor—either a cloak of invisibility or a shield against further harm. Letting go of the weight can make them feel exposed and visible in ways that are uncomfortable or frightening, and left unchecked those feelings can lead to regaining any weight lost.
- People who are used to taking up a certain amount of physical space sometimes feel uncomfortably small when they’ve lost weight, and will unconsciously regain the weight to resume their sense of space in the world.
- People who lose weight without replacing their wardrobe because they don’t feel comfortable spending money on clothes (for a variety of reasons) tend to re-fill the oversized clothes they’re still wearing.
- People who lose enough weight that their skin’s elasticity can’t keep up sometimes regain the weight to fill in their sagging skin, instead of making peace with this new feature or seeking options to have it removed.
- People whose weight is related to a lifestyle they’ve enjoyed and have been pushed to relinquish by a partner or healthcare professional sometimes equate the change in their shrinking bodies with changes they didn’t choose and backslide as a way of reclaiming ownership of their lives.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
I’ve been working in fitness and nutrition for a long time, and part of my role is listening to my clients. We don’t have the same kind of structure (and I don’t have the same kind of training) as a therapist/patient relationship, but there’s definitely an element of that dynamic there. I hear a lot about romances gone sour, financial stress, kids being challenging, workloads being overwhelming, health concerns… you name it. That’s given me a sensitivity to hearing when someone is starting to feel uneasy in their body at about the same time I’m starting to see real evidence of their positive progress.
So, what can you do? If you feel like you’re not getting the sense of satisfaction and happiness you expected when you’re losing weight and getting fit: talk to somebody. If you have a confidante like me, start there. If you have a therapist or someone who fills that role, start there. If you have a friend who helps bring out your best self, pick up the phone and call them. That’s the best first step.
Because everyone’s reasons for resisting positive change are different, the second step will be more specific to each person’s situation. What I’m hoping for, though, is that if you find yourself feeling unhappy or uncomfortable as you move closer to goals you set for your body, take a look at that. And I’m here to help, if you need me!