You step on the scale. You pull on last summer’s jean shorts. You catch yourself in the mirror and realize:
You’ve gained weight.
It’s devastating. You feel your stomach sink, your chest feels tight and there’s a voice that goes, “how could you let this happen?”
The feeling of realizing you’ve gained weight can be absolutely shattering if you’ve struggled with food & body.
In this post, I’m going to outline why weight gain is so shattering, and a process to start breaking free from the shackles of having your sanity depend on what size pants you wear. You may want to bookmark or take notes on this one!
We have to first understand that weight gain, in and of itself, is a neutral circumstance. Objectively, weight gain is not bad. It has no meaning other than the meaning you ascribe to it.
The reason why weight gain is so shattering is BECAUSE of the meaning you ascribe to it. Have you ever met a guy who just gains weight and is like, “ok cool. Maybe I’ll lose it, maybe I won’t, but like, whatever.” HE DOESN’T EVEN CARE. He isn’t even fazed by his weight gain. He doesn’t seem embarrassed or shattered at all! How can this be? How can some people not be completely hung up when they gain weight?
The reason weight gain isn’t shattering for him is because he does not hold core beliefs ABOUT it that produce anxiety.
If you’re freaking out whenever you gain weight, it indicates that you have a belief attached to weight gain that threatens your sense of peace & calm.
The problem is that the beliefs I’m talking about are often subconscious. We don’t even realize that we’ve made these contracts or promises with ourselves and about how we operate in the world.
These core beliefs about who we are are interwoven with our emotions and our sense of safety. These core beliefs are visceral and emotional. They are beliefs we absolutely hold to be true about ourselves, even if they’re subconscious.
In order to truly overcome the fear of gaining weight and the stomach-sinking, mental torture of realizing you’ve gained weight and avoid ending up here again, it is these core beliefs that we must unpack and break free from.
In order to find freedom in your relationship to food and your body, you have to detach self-worth from weight. If your self-worth is dependent upon your weight, it’s going to be a huge problem. Every time your weight changes, it’s going to shatter you. And unfortunately, your body and weight is going to fluctuate throughout your life. This is a recipe for a lot of stress!
The other not-so-great thing about having your self-worth tied to weight is that you’re going to have to work really hard to maintain a certain weight all the time (because your weight and body fluctuate throughout the day, year and lifespan). This limits the degree to which you can experience flexibility and pleasure in your life. If everything is contingent upon you staying a certain weight, and there isn’t any forgiveness when you gain a little bit of weight or want to go on a date with a guy who really loves ice cream, you’re gonna miss out on life.
If you have to come home after that ice cream date and make sure you only eat salad for dinner that night to make up for it, you are constantly operating under a degree of stress and restriction.
You’re gonna miss out on enjoying a lot of experiences because you MUST maintain a weight.
Lemme pause here to say - there is nothing wrong with this. I’ve been in both of these positions and I feel you. It’s not fun at all.
To embody true freedom, we want to be able to eat some ice cream on a date without feeling guilty, and we also want to be able to eat a really wholesome meal or say no to a second serving of dessert because you’re physically full, without feeling deprived.
We want to be able to gain a little bit of weight during quarantine and not hate ourselves, and we also want to be able to NOT revert back into a restrictive, controlling headspace when weight gain happens, because we know will only lead to less freedom. Because we know that trying to lose weight from a place of force, restriction and punishment does not work. That only leads to more binge eating or emotional eating.
The extent to which you restrict is the extent to which you will ultimately end up binge eating. If you want to stop binge eating, stop restricting. Binge eating and dieting are two sides of one coin.
So all that being said, here is a process you can go through if you’re realizing you’ve gained weight during quarantine, (or anytime), and want to experience some relief from the panic and downward spiral.
The first thing that needs to happen is you need to engage the part of you that can observe and witness what’s going on without judging it.
You MUST learn this as a precursor because without it, when you become triggered into emotion or anxiety or a downward spiral, you’re not going to be able to pull yourself out of it unless you have the ability to step back and observe what is happening without identifying it. You MUST have the capacity for non-judgemental awareness in order to pull the “exit gear” on the downward spiral. Non-judgmental awareness is the ability to step back, observe what’s happening without being consumed by it, remaining grounded and somewhat centered.
I highly recommend cultivating this through a mindfulness, meditation or breathing practice and I personally believe that this has to be practiced consistently in order for it to really work.
The reason why this practice ideally is something you are cultivating regularly, is it’s going to be exponentially harder to pull the “exit lever” when you’re in the middle of a downward spiral if it’s the first time you’ve ever done it.
The reason why I suggest practicing mindfulness regularly is so that when you find yourself in the middle of an emotional sh*tstorm, you can easily engage the tools of mindfulness. Because it won’t be the first time you’ve ever done it. If you practice meditation regularly, when that downward spiral hits (and it will), you’ll be well-versed at exercising this muscle.
Now once you’ve developed the perspective of non-judgemental awareness, you can be like “Ohhh okay, I’ve gained weight. Instead of reacting to this as I’ve always done, I’m going to be open to responding in a different way. Hmm how am I going to respond? Let’s create a new pathway in my brain right now instead of going down the old one that I usually automatically go down!”
Next, you want to become aware of your thoughts. You must become aware of the inner dialogue that you are having about the fact that you have gained weight. And once again, this takes a level of awareness and mindfulness because normally we are sooo close to our thoughts that we don’t even recognize them as something we have control over, instead we just identity fully with our thoughts and assume that our thoughts ARE us.
You also want to be doing this process either out loud, on paper, or with a coach or therapist because you CANNOT unpack this stuff in your head. You actually have to unravel it step by step and the only way to do that is by fully fleshing it out by speaking aloud or writing. Otherwise it will just stay jumbled in your head, so don’t try to “think” this through. You actually have to write or talk it out step-by-step.
First, ask yourself, what is so scary or bad about the fact that you’ve gained weight?
Example: It’s bad/scary that I’ve gained weight because _________.
Now you’re going to take what you put in that blank and start a new sentence.
Let’s say what you answered to the above statement was: it’s bad/scary that I’ve gained weight because now I can’t fit into my clothes. They’re tight and uncomfortable.
Now, you’ll take that statement and repeat the same question.
It’s bad/scary that I can’t fit into my clothes/they’re uncomfortable because ______________.
If I can’t fit into my clothes/they’re uncomfortable and tight, I’ll have to buy new ones.
Now you’ll repeat the same thing again with this new statement.
It’s bad that I’ll have to buy new ones because _______________.
It’s bad/scary that I have to buy new clothes because it means I’m admitting defeat. I’m afraid that means that I’ve failed or there’s something wrong with me.
Nowww we’ve uncovered something we can work with. By investigating the initial circumstance of having gained weight, we have uncovered the core emotional wound beneath it.
We’ve gone from “I’ve gained weight” to “I’m a failure.” And by this point you probably feel viscerally this icky feeling, even as I’m saying this and as you go through this process.
See how we started out with a neutral fact, (you’ve gained weight) to the meaning you have subconsciously assigned to that fact. In other words, from a neutral fact to what that fact means about you.
This subconscious assignment of meaning can also be called a limiting belief.
The limiting belief in this case is: If I gain weight, it means that I’m a failure and there’s something wrong with me.
So now at this point, you have the choice to either change or accept this belief. Is it true, objectively, that there is something wrong with you and you are a failure because you’ve gained weight?
Imagine your best friend was sitting in your place, and asking you this question. What would you tell her?
Write out what you would say to her if she asked you, “is it true, objectively, that I’m a failure and something is wrong with me because I’ve gained weight?”
Would you offer your friend even a shred of compassion here?
What would you want to say to the person that had taught your friend that she’s a piece of crap, lazy or a failure for gaining weight?
The final step in this process is to create a counter belief to the limiting belief that has emerged.
If the limiting belief is “I’m a lazy POS because I’ve gained weight” the new belief could be, “I can gain weight and still be worthy of compassion. I am deserving of love even when I’ve gained weight.”
Write it on post it notes and put this new affirmation in your house somewhere you’ll see it every day!
Now, you want to wire that into your brain. Everytime this fear or anxiety around gaining weight comes up again, go through this process again.
Did this help? Send me a dm on instagram and let me know!
Interested in learning more about breaking free from toxic food & body habits? Book a free call here: https://mindbodyhavenfreeconsult.as.me/