Losing Weight . . . a Good Thing?

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  • When eating and/or weight is symbolic for something that's not resolved in your life. Food and weight can be symbolic for almost anything - someone or something from our past that we strongly identified with in either a negative or positive way. Sometimes these internal symbols are convoluted and difficult to understand, but at other times, they're fairly straightforward. A straightforward example of a positive symbol might occur if your idolized 4th grade teacher happened to be fat, then you may have unconsciously associated "fat" with "cool person". The result might be that now when you try to lose weight, your unconscious says, "But WAIT! If you lose weight, you won't be a cool person!" And of course, if you, on the more conscious end of the spectrum are telling yourself, "I won't be cool UNLESS I lose weight," it's a setup that's not only bound to fail, but also will likely produce an incredible amount of anxiety along the way. A similar example of a negative symbol would be if someone who once hurt you was thin, you might associate "thin" with "bad" or "dangerous," which could cause your unconscious to want to avoid being thin, resulting in a similar battle. Personal symbols are usually incredibly powerful. Unfortunately, they are also often difficult to unravel. If you think a symbolic meaning for food or weight may be prohibiting you from losing weight, working with your dreams and/or other methods for exploring the unconscious may help.
  • When you're going to visit Aunt Mary (or her equivalent). All of us have an "Aunt Mary." You know -- that person (restaurant, vacation resort, etc.) who prepares the most totally irresistible goodies you can imagine. So if you're going to have Sunday dinner with Aunt Mary, start your weight loss plan after your visit, not before. Going to stay for a week or a month? Wait until you get back to begin. Going to move in with Aunt Mary? A bit more of a problem! At least let the novelty of all those goodies wear off for a few weeks before you consider whether or not you want to lose weight. Even the most scrumptious things lose some of their appeal after a few weeks of unmitigated self-indulgence.
  • When we're under unusual amounts of pressure and/or stress. Follow the same guidelines as for Aunt Mary. If the stressful situation is chronic, it would probably be a good idea to learn some techniques for dealing with stress (and/or your particular situation) before attempting a weight loss program.
  • When our primary support system attempts to sabotage our weight loss efforts. Spouses and other family members sometimes have an unconscious need for us to keep our extra pounds. Sometimes a simple explanation and pointing out to a well-meaning spouse that the things they do are creating difficulties is all it takes to remedy the situation. But if a family member really needs to remain fat, they will most likely unwittingly continue to sabotage, even if they're trying hard not to. The important things to consider are 1) that you can't change them and 2) given how they are, will you be able to find other ways to support yourself and feel good about yourself as you lose weight, no matter how they react? Sometimes it helps to have game plans in mind for possible ways they may try to sabotage. What will you do if they bring your favorite food home? What if they want to take you to your favorite restaurant? What if they make critical comments about you while you're dieting? What if they lose interest and seem to pull away from you? It's not impossible to lose weight if your family is non-supportive, but it definitely makes it harder, so it's best to plan for it ahead of time.
  • When we plain don't want to. This last reason may well be the most important of all. Unless there are serious health reasons behind your desire to lose weight, to choose not to diet just because you don't want to has always struck me as being very healthy. We really don't all need to look alike or weigh the same amount, no matter what the fashion magazines seem to imply. So if your heart isn't in the idea of losing weight and if it's not a medical emergency, then applaud yourself for being able to resist societal pressures, and focus on enjoying life at your present weight.

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