Last week I wrote about the role honesty has to play in order for weight loss to happen permanently. To sum that up, if we can’t own up to what we’re actually putting in our mouths and what actions we’re taking (or not taking), it’s going to be a long frustrating road! For women with food and weight issues, not being able to be totally honest, or denial, shows up in many forms in our lives.
Today we’re doing a part II on Weight loss, Honesty and Denial, which focuses on how we deny ourselves, either as a form of punishment or as a way to compensate for our size and how that interferes with weight loss.
We’re Good at Denying Ourselves
When food or weight is an issue for us long term, we might get really comfortable in the world of denial. We try denying ourselves the food we want so much, we deny ourselves the relationships and jobs we want, we deny ourselves of the experiences we want, we deny feeling our emotions and turn to food to numb out and we deny reality by ignoring the reason we’re overweight. There’s so much denial and lying going on that it’s hard to know where it ends and where we begin.
For some reason, we wholeheartedly embrace the idea that until we lose the weight, we don’t deserve these things (the jobs, relationships, experiences etc). As if the way to fix the “problem” is to punish our way to thinness. We think we can’t handle feeling our emotions until a certain set of unnamed parameters aligns in such a way that we’re suddenly invincible. We dream of the day when we’re thin enough that we can eat all the things we’ve been denying ourselves (a day that will never come since we overeat lots of stuff that we don’t even want). Where did we get the idea that punishing ourselves is the way to get what we want? No idea but most of us are plagued by it in some way.
We spend our time half in our lives and half thinking about the life we would live if we finally reached that size or goal weight. Even the half that we do spend in our lives, much of it is spent projecting a person that we think others want to see. A person that would be more accepted, loved and interesting than the one who currently resides in the body we have. We numb ourselves out of the very life we have and then we create a carefully cultivated image for others to see. If we can’t be honest with ourselves, we’re not going to be able to put our guard down around others either.
What am I talking about?
The Nice One, The Sharp Dresser and The Doormat
We do things to prevent others from seeing who we really are.
You might have grown up being the nice girl because from a young age you learned that people might not like you because of your weight – at least if you’re nice they’ll have one less reason to dislike you.
You may be an impeccable dresser, have all the best purses and your hair and nails were always perfectly maintained because you learned that looks and size matter – if you look good maybe they won’t notice your weight.
You might have become known as the caretaker in your circle of friends and family having learned that you need to have another value to be accepted if you’re overweight.
You may have become a doormat having learned that you better be agreeable if you’re overweight or you won’t be loved.
Or maybe none of these are you, but you’re known as the funny one, the smart one or the outgoing one in your circle of friends because you learned that you needed to stand out in some way in life other than for your weight.
Disclaimer: This is not to say that overweight people don’t stand out in these ways naturally, just as normal weight folks do – it’s just that some of us may have purposely cultivated these things a little more than we might have otherwise as a distractor from out weight.
This was me for years. I can’t tell you how many times I was over-dressed for an event when everyone else was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. When people would comment on it, I’d just say “I prefer skirts!” or “Makeup is an art!”. The truth was that I didn’t feel like my body looked ok in the clothes everyone else wore – I felt like a tank and at least if I was dressed up and had flashy colorful makeup on someone might notice me for more than just being the “big girl” at the party. I’d still be the big girl but I’d be the well dressed girl too. I still love to dress up and love makeup – it’s a part of me now, but these days I also feel just as adorable in a pair of jeans or a pair of workout tights. I still don’t like t-shirts and never will.
As I got older, I tried out other roles, like the strong one, the nice one, the funny one, the outgoing / outlandish one and I’m sure others. Since I could never shake the weight for long despite my sincere desire to be thin, I tried on whatever camouflage I could access – thinking one of these eventually will fit! None of them did.
You Don’t Need to Apologize for Your Existence
The point of this post isn’t to make you feel badly for being the nice girl, or for wearing makeup or having nice purses and shoes. And I’m not suggesting you change these things – especially if these are things you now love about yourself. I love accessories myself.
The point is to become aware of the ways that we do things to punish ourselves (with the denial of food or life stuff) or compensate for our weight because when we believe there is a part of us that we have to make up for, disguise or deny – we walk around feeling ashamed and almost apologetic for just being here and that’s exactly the type of stuff that leads to weight gain, chronic diets, restriction and we get more of the same.
If you feel ashamed on a daily basis for just being in the body you have, it’s really difficult to do the things needed to lose weight. If you feel you deserve punishment or that you shouldn’t have certain things because of your weight, you’ll end up doing things that actually make you gain weight (cycles of deprivation lead to bingeing). So much of successful weight loss actually has to do with what’s going on in our heads, being aware of it and not what’s on our plate!
Your weight or size does not mean you have something to apologize for. It does not mean you need to make up for something. It does not mean you don’t have many things going for you. It does not mean that something is wrong with you. It does not mean you are starting off with a lower score than everyone around you. It does not mean you can’t be loved and appreciated exactly as you are. It does not mean you deserve punishment or need to be someone else.
Yes, there are lots of people in this world who might think less of you for being overweight. I’m not in denial about how things are. But why are we trying to please people who would judge us on something like that?
Realistically you can’t change others opinions of you and frankly other’s opinions of us are none of our business. Someone else’s opinion about you says more about them than it does you and nothing you do, say or what you look like will change that. Since you can’t change how someone else thinks about you, you may as well focus on what you can change and that is how you think of yourself! The good news is that you can think of yourself however you want, without approval or validation from anyone else and you can do this now, even without losing an ounce of weight.
And when you think of yourself positively, without shame, with acceptance, guess what happens? We stop punishing and hiding ourselves and weight loss becomes a lot easier.
A few questions to consider (and feel free to answer in the comments):
What have you been denying yourself because of your weight or size? (food, relationships, jobs, experiences etc.)
Are there personality traits or physical attributes that you’ve focused on projecting more of as a way to distract others from your size? If so, what are they? How have you used them? How have they helped or hurt you?
What do you think about the idea that you can accept yourself now, at your current weight? How do you think it would change your life if you could do that?
If this speaks to you, I hope you’ll contact me to set up a mini session – where we can discover what might be getting in the way of the person you want to be. (To not miss out on my emails – put your name in the green box below). You can also find me on most social media outlets, though I’m probably the most active on Facebook.