Let me guess, you're SO over having food rules and are ready to find the food freedom you desperately crave… but there is just one problem: you're TERRIFIED of gaining weight!
Girlfriend, I feel ya.
Six years ago I felt the same way and, honestly, the fear of weight gain DOES hold you back from living with no food rules. So, today I am going to tell you how to overcome your fear of gaining weight so you can confidently start working towards that food freedom!
As an Intuitive Eating Dietitian, I am here to empower you to live your best life. And let me tell you: your best life is not one weighed down with fear.
Your weight is not your health
First things first, we tend to have a lot of reasons fueling our weight loss goals, but one of them is less rooted in real science than you’d guess: your weight is not a marker of your health.
This is pretty earth-shattering to learn for most of us because we are inundated with messages that being thin is healthier…not to mention the keys to being accepted in society, promoted at work, and the answer to living your best life.
The truth is: you are healthiest at your set point weight, and no one but you and your body can figure out what the best setpoint weight is for you.
For more on real measures of health, check out this post: Can You Really Be Healthy At Every Size? (HAES Explained!).
So, if we know now that our weight is not a true measure of our health, why does the thought of gaining weight feel so scary? It’s complicated.
Why am I afraid of gaining weight?
One really important step towards overcoming the fear of gaining weight is to dig into why it feels so scary, to begin with.
Why do you fear weight gain? Typically, when we have this fear of it, it is because we tie our weight to something. We may feel that our weight determines our:
In order to truly stop fearing weight gain, you have to understand WHY you fear it. Fears that are unnamed are far scarier than fear with a name (for example, getting a medical diagnosis can sometimes feel like a relief because the mysterious symptoms now have a name).
Once you’ve named your fears, you need to do some fact-checking. Ask yourself "Is this true?"
For instance, if you found that you tie your fear of gaining weight to your happiness, is it TRUE, is it a FACT that if you gain weight you will be less happy? …or is the statement just what you’ve been telling yourself?
Does your weight truly determine your happiness?
You can be happy at any size.
You can be miserable at any size, too.
Happiness is mostly mindset! While thin privilege is a true and real influence on our lives, at the end of the day, your mindset has a far greater impact on how you feel, day in and day out. If you feel your weight determines your success, ask yourself again, is this true? No. There are amazingly successful people of ALL shapes and sizes! Take a second right now to think of happy people from a variety of sizes bodies!
So…let’s dig a little deeper.
Next, ask why again
Once you have identified some of the reasons that you're scared of gaining weight, ask yourself why you feel fear of weight gain, and how those reasons are connected. Start to get to the root cause of it.
It might be because of something you heard someone say, the things you usually see on TV, or maybe you totally just made it up! Find out the reason that you tie these two things together. This investigation is important.
For me, one of my fears about gaining weight was tied to my desire to be “good” at something. I was frustrated with my life, it felt hard, and like it wasn’t in my control. Losing weight gave me a short-lived “hit” that I was good at something.
If I gained weight… would I be good at anything?!
I put my self-worth and validation as a human into my weight and the reality is… that’s B.S. My weight didn’t make me a “good” or “bad” person. It gave me a very false sense of control and validation which, in the end, made me only feel even more lost and out of control.
Can you relate?
Once you’ve been able to identify some of these connections, you’ll be able to better separate them.
What are you really seeking?
One exercise I like to do in The SociEATy is to have my clients think about someone they admire.
What is it about this special person that makes you think so highly about them? I recommend actually getting out a real piece of paper and listing what you admire about them.
Ok, ready to talk about it?
Chances are the things that you have written down are characteristics of their personality, not characteristics of their physical body, like their weight.
Did you write things down like they’re determined, kind, motivated, or compassionate, etc.?
Next question: do you think that your admirers are thinking about your weight, BMI, or pants size? Or are your favorite people also thinking about the characteristics of your personality, your dedication as a friend, and your skills and strengths as a co-worker?
Your biggest fans and advocates are admiring the same non-physical characteristics about you! The people around you love you for you.
Steps to overcome the fear of gaining weight
There are many ways to curb and conquer your fears of gaining weight…practice helps! Here are some of my top strategies to stop fearing gaining weight and to begin living your best, most free life.
Practice new mantras
Now it's time to rewire your brain in order to separate weight gain from whatever you're correlating it to. This sounds like a big step, but it's actually pretty easy.
Your brain has been told weight gain = less chance of success/happiness/having a relationship/etc. After doing this for so long it's habitual for it to tie these two things together. So, we must break the habit. Personally, I am a fan of mantras and affirmation.
You can find a list of my top 10 intuitive eating affirmations here, which you can adapt to fit your specific situation. This will start your brain from disassociating weight gain to your success/happiness/having a relationship/etc.
Here is an example. Say you think your happiness is determined by keeping a lower weight. You can use the affirmation "My weight does not determine my happiness, my thoughts do." Or, "happiness is not determined by my weight; I can be happy at any size."
Once you have your mantra or affirmation it's all about repetition, repetition, repetition! It might seem forced to say this mantra/affirmation at first, and that's okay! It's a new concept for your brain. However, after hearing it enough your brain will believe it and say "Ooooh, so THIS is how we're thinking now, huh? Okay, cool!" But, in order to get there, you have to repeat!
Don’t assume change is bad
Sometimes when our bodies change it WILL feel different but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Sometimes it can take time to get used to the new you for your brain to realize this is now normal. Essentially your brain is creating a new blueprint in your mind of what your body is.
This is a common concern, so if fearing the changes in your body is on your mind, check out this post: What If I Don't Like My Set Point Weight?
Feel good in your body
Getting into a good relationship with your body, your hunger, and your eating takes practice. We have a lot of emotional connections to food and eating and a lot of them are influenced by diet culture…that is, until you break free.
Pssst: here is a post explaining exactly what diet culture is: What is Diet Culture (And Should I Kick it to the Curb?)
It’s important to differentiate between “I feel like I’m being bad per diet culture” and “I don’t feel good in my body.”
For example, not feeling good in your body might be “I have no energy or stamina when I walk the dog!” This? This is something you can absolutely work on as an intuitive eater. It’s not about the weight loss but about the behaviors you do to actually make walking the dog feel better (i.e. maybe practicing walking more, fueling your body with amounts that feel good, etc!).
Your behaviors create your health. More on that in the HAES blog post. Check that out, right here: Can Really You Be Healthy At Every Size? (HAES Explained!)
Food freedom allows food to just be food, not “good” or “bad.”
Exploring your hunger with curiosity, nourishing your body with the foods that allow you to feel good mentally and physically, and enjoying movement are all skills that I help my SociEATy members to develop. And dang, it is so fun to celebrate the wins with them!
Food and exercise are both tools. They can be misused – as with dieting – or they can be used to cultivate true health and to feel GOOD in your body.
Finding food freedom and overcoming your fear of weight gain gives you the space to find what actually makes you happy and feel good. And gorgeous, you’re worth knowing that.
Speak nicely to yourself
When speaking to yourself about weight gain – even in your head – pretend that you’re talking to a friend. How would you speak to your bestie? Would you speak to them the way that you’re speaking to yourself?
If you’re offering your best friends more grace than you’re allowing for yourself, it is time to revamp those inner monologues towards kindness and compassion.
Gorgeous, I’m so glad that you’re doing the important and hard work to cultivate your own freedom and letting go of the fears that have kept you enmeshed in diet culture and fearing changes in your weight.
It might be that your friends and family members are not quite where you are in their health journey…they might want to keep talking about diets, their weight or size, or even comment on yours.
Cutting comments from family members can really dig.
There are different strategies that you can use to get away from diet talk. The best solution might vary from situation to situation.
- Change the subject
- Leave to take a call (real or not)
- Make a joke
- Offer education about Intuitive Eating
If you’re feeling surrounded by diet talk, you’re going to want to bookmark this post: Diet Talk: How To Respond & What To Say.
At the end of the day, I want you to set your fears of intuitive eating weight gain to the side. Actually, kick them to the curb if you can! If this sounds impossible check out my posts on overcoming the fear of weight gain and overcoming negative body image.
And know this, gorgeous: You'll get where you need to be. You'll get to a weight you FEEL amazing at mentally AND physically. A weight you don't need to micromanage. A weight you can maintain effortlessly within a range. You can. And you will.
Your body doesn’t want to be below its set weight, true. But it also doesn’t want to be above it. That thermostat can function if we allow it to.
If you haven't yet taken the No Food Rules Quiz, be sure to do so! This will tell you what's holding you back from breaking your food rules and give you a customized workbook to help overcome them. It's a FAB place to get started with finding food freedom!
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