How Our Fears Affect Weight Loss

How our fears affect weight loss

Courage may be your best friend for finally discovering your best body. 

If losing weight were just a matter of eating differently and exercising, it wouldn’t be a billion dollar industry would it?

We know it’s about more then changing eating habits…but we often forget this detail as well.

So how does fear play into weight loss, you may ask? Here are some examples that I have heard over the years from clients. Some are straightforward and others might surprise you as they are just below our conscious awareness.

  • “My husband is worried that if I lose weight other men will be interested in me and I will leave him.”
  • “I might become more attracted to other men and leave my husband.”
  • “Attention from men makes me nervous.”
  • “My friends will be jealous.”
  • “My sister will be jealous.”
  • “My mother will be jealous.”
  • “Who am I to be thin and attractive?”
  • “Other women will think I’m a skinny bitch.”
  • “If I lose weight it will make my friend(s) feel badly about themselves.”
  • “I won’t have a reason not to pursue my dream job/relationship/vacation.”
  • “I’ll feel free and who knows what I will do!”

Now, most of these statements were not the first thing out of a client’s mouth. But often, without a lot of questions, these real fears surfaced. Once we state our fears it becomes pretty clear why losing weight is such tricky business.

As you can see from the above list, a whole lot of people may be weighing in on your food choices and the amount you eat…all quite unconsciously.

Why would you lose weight and risk the potential backlash from the people you care about…or even people you don’t care about? Facing harsh reactions is scary. Feeling others’ sadness and disappointment in themselves is uncomfortable.

So, what’s a gal to do when she’s just trying to feel good about herself?

Here are the two ways to think about and deal with your fears and the reactions involved. Being proactive will put you in a positive and empowered position.

ONE: When fear is based on fantasy.
When you engage in imagining how others will react to you, you are using a style of thinking called “Cognitive Distortions”. These fall into different categories, but common ones are: mind-reading, fortune-telling, personalizing and catastrophizing.

As soon as you hear yourself imagining what others are saying or thinking, tell yourself, “STOP”. Thought-stopping is a way to keep the runaway train in your head under control.

Weight loss is a by-product of being emotionally healthy. When you change your thinking from fear-based to neutral or hopeful, you decrease your stress-level and anxiety. You then decrease two reasons for turning to food to cope. As well, lower cortisol levels (stress hormone) are linked to weight loss.

TWO: When fear is based on experience.
Here fear is based on reality and you have clear memories of the last time you were at a better weight. Friends didn’t take kindly to you feeling and looking great. Your mother made negative comments. There were side-glances from coworkers that didn’t feel supportive. Or, unwelcome attention from men.

These experiences could have been in your teens, 20s, or last summer. Usually, the earlier this happens to us the more impact it has and the more unconscious the fear can be. These experiences can take more work as they trigger fear and vulnerability. That said, it is never too late to take back our power.

Be proactive in knowing the fear-provoking situations that derail your best intentions. Know that some people will be envious and if a “friend” doesn’t support you in feeling your best, then are they really being a friend? Maybe you fear losing that person so it’s been safer to keep them comfortable and maintain the relationship.

Family is trickier, as these relationships go deep to the core of our need for love and belonging. The “fear factor” runs pretty high when it feels like you are alienating your tribe. But, know that any comment that isn’t supportive comes from that person’s own discomfort. Maybe they fear losing the you they are familiar with. Maybe you will start a new career or be more active. It can feel like you are leaving them behind.

Change can be scary for everyone. As well, misery loves company so you getting on with feeling fabulous can be a threat. Not a real one, just imagined.

Can you see all the places where fear can get in the way of losing weight?

It takes courage to change.

If you can name and let go of some of your fears and fantasies about what will happen when you lose weight, you will be far more successful in reaching your goals.

As always, be kind and gentle with yourself.

Our fears are often just trying to keep us safe from unknowns. We are wired to stay safe and maintain the status quo.
Except we aren’t talking about stepping out of the cave into the mouth of a saber-tooth tiger. It just feels that way.

Here’s to facing your fears…and feeling lighter right away.

Be Happy, Be Healthy, Be You.

Helen