Losing Weight . . . a Good Thing?

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One of the many problems with this seemingly attainable fix is that it doesn't work. Even if we succeed in our weight loss scheme and reach the magic number we set for ourselves, we end up with a thinner body but we also still have what we started out with: a sort of amorphous sense that there's something wrong with us. It's at this point that eating disorders begin, people gain back the weight they lost and/or other symptoms such as depression, anxiety, suicidality and obsessive-compulsive tendencies develop. These additional symptoms typically leave us feeling even worse about ourselves and often put our health at risk as well. The effects of yo-yo dieting and/or eating disorders are much more serious health risks than being overweight. So if your physician wouldn't agree with you that losing weight is in your best interest, please consider working on changing your self-image instead. Even though it's a much more difficult goal to attain than weight loss, in the long run you'll be happier and healthier with that solution.

the subjective part of the question

For those of you whose doctors agree that it would be healthy or at least not harmful for you to lose some weight, what next? Spend however much time is necessary -- days, weeks, months -- determining what your likelihood for successful weight loss is at this particular time in your life. If you discover that you're not likely to succeed, change your focus. Instead of dieting, do other kinds of things that make you feel good about yourself and that are nurturing. Find ways to boost your self-esteem in non food- or weight-related ways. You'll feel better about yourself now, and you'll also be setting the stage for any possible future weight loss attempts. Instead of being critical of yourself because you're not in a place to lose weight, pat yourself on the back for your self-awareness and honesty. If your goals are truly to lose weight and keep it off without damaging your self-esteem and your health, you'll be happier if you wait until the time is right.

Below are several examples of situations that might mean it's not a good idea (or a good time) to begin a weight loss program. These are only meant to stimulate your thinking, though. There's an infinite number of possible reasons and what's important is to discover what's true for you.

  • Having weight and self-esteem overly linked in your mind. Ironically, one thing that will sabotage a weight loss program more quickly than most anything else is if we're doing it because we think there's something morally wrong with being fat. Actually, the part of us that sabotages this type of diet is usually a very healthy part of us. That part is basically saying, "Hey! What makes you think you need to lose weight to be an okay person? There's nothing wrong with you. You're basically pretty neat. Why don't you work on getting that first, and then we'll talk about losing weight?" Even when the reasons for beginning a weight loss program are for health reasons, the diet will be much more likely to succeed and be much more enjoyable if it's coming from an "I want to do this" place, as opposed to an "I should" place.
  • When food is your main (or only) source of nurturance. We all need nurturance. It's a proven human need. If food is your only source of comfort, please don't deprive yourself by taking it away. Instead, it might be more helpful (and respectful) to begin some self-examination to discover what other things you might be able to derive pleasure and comfort from and begin cultivating those. Once you have other ways of being nurtured, food won't seem as important and you'll be able to lose weight without feeling so deprived.
  • When there's a sense (often unconscious) of needing extra weight as protection. Some people have a sense of needing extra protection around them. The world can seem like a scary place without some additional "armoring". If this is true for you it's much more self-respectful to work on finding other ways of feeling safe before you begin a weight loss program. The unconscious need to feel safe is extremely powerful and will almost assuredly sabotage any weight loss program you try until the need is satisfied in other ways.

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