During all of my 16 years dedicated to chronic dieting and feeling out of control around food, one of my enduring beliefs was that being slim meant I would be lighter, happier and confident. After a few weeks of being 'good' and in control (as opposed to tucking into toast with melted butter, biscuits and any food not nailed down) the result, when I stepped on the bathroom scales, was that my weight had dropped. For some reason the scales were always kept in a box under a book shelf. Hidden away, but unveiled for the moment of self-judgement.
Weeks of being good were suddenly unravelled in a moment of stress or anxiety. And isn't it amazing how much food you can eat in five minutes? I have been known to eat an entire packet of biscuits in less than ten minutes, and it all goes down so easily when dipped in a cup of tea! Then the old familiar feelings of guilt and shame set in, followed by weeks of chaotic eating as the pounds gradually piled on again. I did so well in virtually every other area of life, but food was my downfall, always.
I was desperately seeking slimness but never thought to ask myself "Why have I put myself in the position of being overweight again?", "Is a part of me holding onto my weight?" Do you sabotage your weight loss efforts once you drop 8 or 14 pounds? Although a part of you does not want that extra weight and desperately wants to shed it, is there another part of you holding onto that weight? You might never have considered these questions- Why have you chosen to be overweight? What's in it for you by being overweight?
When I ask this to my Heyday participants, they look at me with an expression of incredulity. Others look like they want to hurl an object at me. There is usually a moment of silence, followed by, 'Are you for real? I don't WANT to be overweight. I WANT to lose weight. Why, WHY would I want to be overweight?'
But there are advantages to remaining overweight. If you are not aware of these benefits and why you're holding on to your extra weight, then no amount of dieting will keep those pounds at bay for good. If you have recently lost weight and fear that you will gradually regain the pounds, then it is crucial that you look at the reasons why you might be holding onto extra weight.
Here are 4 classic examples from Heyday's online participants:
1."My reason for not doing things in life has been my weight. When I lose it, I won't have an excuse to put off life, such as applying for another job, or even getting on a flight".
2. "Having extra weight means I can blend into the background, without being the focus of attention, and I don't feel that I'm 'on show'".
3. "Weight makes me feel protected from other people. I think I might feel vulnerable if I lost it".
4. Personally, I recall feeling anxious or nervous about the increased personal power that I would felt as the weight gradually fell of me.
In being slim you are exposed to what you tried to get away from by having extra weight. When you lose weight you are physically smaller in a world of high expectations. A new slim body means a smaller version of yourself. You no longer have the fat armour to protect you. You may feel more fragile and vulnerable. Having extra weight has protected you. Without it you may feel exposed. That's one reason why many people who lose weight regain it.
Being overweight is not simply one-sided and negative. It has a function and a purpose. You may feel bad about your weight, but importantly can you see a new meaning in your weight? Can you give yourself a chance to figure out what all of your extra eating is about? Can you see any benefits to having extra weight, or have you anxieties around letting go of weight or food? If you are not aware of the benefits of your weight and your concerns about letting it go, you will struggle to reach and maintain a healthy weight.