The thing I hear the most from my clients is their desire to be accepted and loved. But that's not how they're saying it. It's the whisper that I hear beneath their body hatred.
Sadly, we have been told our whole lives that our acceptability depends on our appearance, primarily thinness. It starts at such a young age. Kids are bullied about their weight. Well-meaning doctors and parents tell kids to lose weight. Mothers go on diets with their daughters. The fashion industry tailors clothes to the thin ideal, a body type that only ~5% of people can naturally achieve. Magazines, social media, TV, and movies show us images of thin, ripped and toned celebrities – the underlying message that we must look this way to be considered beautiful. Weight bias is everywhere. It's no wonder people walk around worrying about their weight.
And then there's the fruitless pursuit of thinness. Studies show that attempting to lose weight (i.e. dieting, whether it's a formal diet program or just your own attempt to lose it) might temporarily work, but that 95% of people regain the weight they lost, often plus some. Then comes the self-deprecation and sense of failure. As if you did something wrong, when the diet was never going to work in the first place, at least not for the long-term.
Consider the common behaviors of a person who is on a diet:
- focusing on following the prescribed food rules (e.g. points, calories, food groups, serving sizes, etc.)
- thinking all day long about food – what is allowed to be eaten, what the person really wants to eat (usually a forbidden food)
- obsessing about how much weight has been gained/lost and how much more there is to lose
- fantasizing about the euphoria that will be experienced if the magic goal weight has been achieved
- overeating, often in secret, followed by guilt and shame for breaking the diet rules
Is this the type of person you want to hang out with? Someone who is so distracted that being present in the moment is nearly impossible? If the underlying goal of losing weight is to be loved and accepted, the behaviors that it takes to get there pull you in the opposite direction, leaving you disconnected.
Imagine a world where there's a radical shift from our current thinking, and body diversity was accepted, thus there's no need for dieting. What would you do with the time and energy you've put into controlling your eating? Perhaps that time could be used toward loving yourself and others.
So when I hear someone say, "I want to lose weight," what I really hear is I want to be loved.