It is a hard fact to accept but being overweight gives us many things. Usually it’s safety from pain. Being overweight stops us living and potentially being hurt. It stops us being noticed so we’re not judged and it can make us feel powerless so we never try anything new and risk the pain of failure or ridicule.
Weight can also be an apology for being. An apology for being born, for being clever, for being pretty, for being different, for anything we want to bury because others don’t like it. Being overweight is sometimes easier than justifying your being.
In my experience, there are 3 things that we protect ourselves from by staying as we are:
Everyone has different levels of comfort when it comes to change, often arising from how secure we felt as a child. We tell ourselves it is the change we fear but in reality, it’s the fear of how we will cope with the change that worries us. Change threatens our coping mechanisms, our tried and tested methods of dealing with life. It can threaten our rules and challenge them to change. Keeping things as they are is easier, because we know how to deal with what is, even if we dislike it.
The perceived pain of failure can stop us trying. If we have lost weight only to put it all back on again, that pain is personal and raw because it is all about us, there is no one else to blame. Unlike physical pain, we can easily recall and relive emotional pain. When we want to keep ourselves away from pain, we recall our failures to remind us.
We all know that feeling of hope we get at the start of a new diet. The feeling that everything is going to be perfect this time and we’ll get everything we dreamed of. But often the fear of life not getting any better can hold us back. Our imagined perfect world is safer and more enjoyable than the actual outcome may be. We fear the real outcome may never match our expectation and so we don’t try.
Doubt – safety’s back up plan
What are you afraid of? What keeps you awake at night? What are your fears for the future? Is it losing a partner or job, fear of fat, of food, fear of failing, of being alone or of not being good enough? Your fears are useful to you because they show you what you truly want. Fear comes from wanting something but doubting you can have it. This means if we can change the doubt, we change the fear. For example, you may fear that you will stay overweight, which tells you that you doubt your ability to become slim. You might fear being lonely, but this just means that you doubt your ability to find people to be around. The doubt is always less emotive than the fear itself. Words like ‘overweight’ and ‘lonely’ cause high emotion, but if we just called it ‘doubting our ability’, that sounds like something we can easily improve. Doubt is not real, it is imagined, created from your rules and experiences. So by reducing doubt about something, you can see more clearly what it is you do want, rather than focusing all your energy on what you don’t want.
Changing our fear into doubts reduces the anxiety our mind is creating. If you are afraid of becoming slim and the life changes that might bring, your mind will keep you overweight. If you are afraid of failure, your mind will keep you from trying. It won’t be obvious, there won’t be a voice that says ‘you’ve lost 10 pounds and now you’re going to have to start doing all those things you said you would do when you were overweight, and what if they don’t work?’. It will come through as emotion causing you to eat to feel better. Removing the fear and instead focusing on changing doubts gives you back the ability to take more action.
All doubts are just thoughts and, like all thoughts, they can be argued and changed. When you see any doubt as just an uncertainty about yourself, something that you can change with practice, learning or changing your thinking, you can begin to let go of the fear it causes. I thought my fears were to spend a life doing a job I hated, being alone, and always feeling fat and ugly. I discovered that the fear was not in staying the same way forever but it was in the doubt that I could change them. Doubt is personal and can be paralysing but ultimately, it is created in our mind not in the real world.
Extract from “Still Overweight? The 6-week course that changes your weight and relationship to food forever”