At some point in this journey, if you are overweight, you may get confused. The ideas of “love your body as it is”, “accept yourself as you are”, “focus on health, not weight” and all of the other messages we receive on the journey can leave you feeling like there’s still a nagging unanswered question in the back of your mind…
But what if I’m overweight? Is it bad to still want to lose weight?
This is a very valid question. Especially if health concerns are involved. Your doctor tells you that if you don’t lose weight, all sorts of health risks are at play. Or you’re carrying so much weight that your knees and joints ache when you walk.
The truth is I tend to avoid answering this question because I feel like people could take it the wrong way. If I say “yes you can still want to lose weight”, it may be misinterpreted that I’m all about weight loss. If I say “no, don’t focus on weight at all”, it can lead to confusion that we should ignore health issues.
(**There’s that people-pleaser in me wanting to please everyone! 🙂 )
I’m diving into this question, because this has come up in the Normal Eaters Club. And I felt it’s time to address this, as it’s something that most likely won’t go away.
Here is my honest answer:
Weight IS important.
**By important, I don’t mean weight is the be all end all. I don’t mean that you should focus exclusively on trying to lose weight (that’s what got us into trouble in the first place!)
(The whole “trying to lose weight” mindset always results in a battle. We are constantly fighting our bodies when we try to lose weight. It is exhausting and futile and we never win.)
What I mean by “important” is that excess weight is a symptom.
A symptom of something within you that may be imbalanced or not “right” for your body.
Here’s what I mean:
When I was living in Ecuador, I left thin. I came back heavy. It was devastating for me, as I was still working through much of the body acceptance issues that had plagued me for years.
I wasn’t dieting and I wasn’t binging much, but gaining that much weight and going up 3 clothing sizes really messed with my head.
I knew something was “off” in my body. I knew this wasn’t my natural weight. Although I wasn’t quite sure what my natural weight was, I did have a deep inner knowing that something was amiss in my body.
This insight came from my work in tuning in to myself. No, I still wasn’t “perfect” and I didn’t listen to my body all of the time, but I had spent many years taking yoga, practicing meditation, journaling and learning to “hear” that I knew something else was going on.
I had been having a lot of gastroenterological problems and had originally thought it was just from living in a third world country, which had very different food than I was used to. I also thought it was just my “crazy” distorted perception of my body (I had gained weight, but I thought it was all in my head, since I had wrestled with a distorted image of myself almost my whole life).
One day when I was with my Spanish tutor, she said to me:
“You know, you’ve been talking about how bloated and uncomfortable you are for the last 2 months. Maybe you should go to the doctor”.
And it hit home for me. I realized I wasn’t crazy. It wasn’t my distorted perception of myself. I really was having some health issues.
What I kept coming back to was this:
This weight is a symptom of something going on in my body.
I knew my weight gain wasn’t from binging, as I really wasn’t binging as much anymore. The diet in Ecuador is fairly simple, and I wasn’t eating as much processed foods as I would have in the States.
How did I know that my weight wasn’t what it should be? I just knew. It just felt…not me!
I explored 1000 different routes: colonoscopy & endoscopy tests, gastroenterologists, food allergies, gluten tests, Ayurveda, and different natural health care practitioners.
I ended up working with an applied kinesiologist who found parasites in my intestines, which is what was causing my body so much intestinal stress. With a ton of supplements and a diet where I had to cut out sugar (parasites feed on sugar…and I really struggled with it, because the restriction made me want to rebel! But that’s for another post 🙂 )
It ended up taking me about a year to heal and slowly but surely the weight came off. It wasn’t overnight and it wasn’t sudden. At some point in that journey, I decided to take my focus off of weight (because every time I would go in for a check up, I’d ask… “when is this weight going to come off?!” And burst into tears).
I was grateful I listened to myself, as many of the doctors I saw told me I had IBS and wanted to put me on a plan to manage it. But I knew my weight gain went deeper than that.
This may be an extreme example, because most people don’t live abroad in a third world country 🙂
But my point is that weight can be a symptom.
It may be a sign your adrenals are fatigued or your thyroid is out of whack.
It may be that you aren’t eating enough of the foods your body needs to be in balance.
It may be a symptom you need more sleep.
It may be a sign that you’re overwhelmed with stress and need to take a look at your life.
It could be something else.
Health is a puzzle and there are so many pieces that come together to create a healthy you. Only you know if your weight is truly imbalanced.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t pursue body acceptance. Or work towards letting go of dieting and tuning into your body’s wisdom. Or let go of food rules and learn to hear hunger and fullness.
I did all of these things on my journey towards my natural weight.
I knew I wasn’t going to diet the weight away. And so I had no other choice but to work to accept myself as I was: three clothing sizes heavier than before.
It was a humbling lesson in realizing that we are more than our bodies.
I felt so much discomfort in myself during that period of my life. I wanted to hide myself in baggy clothes. I didn’t want to be intimate or date for fear of someone seeing me naked.
But I kept plodding forward anyway. I kept reminding myself that I was enough, that I was worthy of an amazing life, and that I could show up without hiding.
Above all else in this journey, letting go of the food obsession MUST be #1.
Weight comes second. Until you begin to loosen the rigid hold food has on you, you won’t be able to even know what your balanced self feels like.
Wanting to lose weight isn’t bad if you’re seeing it as a way to achieve balance in your body. You may explore portion sizes, more movement in your life, tuning into what food energizes you, thyroid imbalances, or anything else you feel drawn to.
If you approach this gently, as a way to work WITH your body and not against, it is something that can bring you back into balance.
Excess weight is neither good nor bad. It’s neutral.
It can be a sign for you to go deeper into one area of this path. Or it may be a distorted body image (and you aren’t actually overweight or have weight to lose).
Only YOU know what is true for you.
Remember that this journey of health is often times a puzzle. I worked with so many different people on my own path (health care practitioners, therapists, coaches, support groups, etc). I was determined to heal and to be one of those “normal” people around food.
There will be different stages of your healing as you feel drawn towards exploring different topics. Know that it’s okay and that each step of your path is always taking you deeper into healing 🙂 Even when it may seem like a step back; you’re always moving forward.