During this series we’ve been talking about the hormonal effects of weight loss, but that’s just ONE piece of the picture…
Weight loss is physical issue but there’s a huge emotional side to weight loss also. This series is specifically geared to people who need to LOSE BIG – as in 20 to 50 or more pounds. But todays article is more for someone losing weight of any amount, big or small.
I wanted to discuss weight and food/body issues, because body size is a highly emotional topic, because what we believe about our bodies usually is tied to many deep things, like what our parents taught us about our bodies, what we were modeled as a child, what information we took in that came from society, etc.
It all adds up to a lot of emotional bagage in our head.
AND I BELIEVE, THAT IF YOU DON’T FIX YOUR MENTAL WORLD, YOU CANNOT FIX YOUR PHYSICAL WORLD!
Now this is a bold statement, however, I see this every week when meeting with my patients.
So often we want to make weight loss totally separate from our other physical goals! But especially with weight loss, we CANNOT DO THIS. Never have I talked to a patient about weight loss and NOT addressed some part of their mental world.
I see this in men who are entreprenuers and building companies. I see this in young women who are “battling” their weight. I see this in middle aged women and moms who have been overweight for a long time.
So let’s get into this… First I want to tell my story. I am passionate about this because of my own journey!
As a teenager I was overweight, and it was very soul crushing. I was learning so much about the world during this time, and everything society was telling me was that you had to be skinny to be “worthy” and loved. At the time I was not eating well, and I didn’t have an exercise routine. My mom had been making our diets more nutritious, but I wasn’t on board.
I finally decided that enough was enough… and I started running and lifting weights daily after school, and watching my diet. I did south beach diet for a while, and I learned a lot about insulin and carbs. I also saw a naturopathic doctor who helped me discover my Celiac disease / gluten intolerance, and helped educate me on healthy foods.
I lost a lot of weight healthfully.
But then I went to college, didn’t know how to safely eat in my schools cafeteria, dabbled in Veganism, started overtraining, and I lost the freshman 15 that I had never gained. PLUSSS some. Sophmore year of college I was 126 lbs, highly active, and working towards my Human Biology degree. I thought I looked great. I was in a size 2. I felt strong. But looking back I realized so many things.
My body was screaming to be fed. I was undereating calorically and macronutrient wise, but I was still eating a lot of food (super low calorie vegetables and proteins). My diet was pretty low-fat. I lost a lot of hair. I wasn’t sexually active, but I had zero libido (I probably didn’t even know what that was at the time), and I had extreme vaginal dryness.
LONG LONG LONG story shortened… I woke up and healed, but it didn’t come until I took an intuitive eating class in medical school as an elective. Most of the schools nutrition students were required to take this course. I was recommended the course by a friend and decided to take it (why not? I said).
The course CHANGED my life.
I remember sitting in front of the professor, who casually walked into the room with a cookie from the cafeteria, and she BEAMED. And she spoke so casually and positively about the cookie and how much she loved cookies and how excited she was for the cookie. My jaw must have been on the floor because I literally had ZERO idea that I could have this type of relationship with food. I realized that yes, I had lost the weight and become healthy. But in medicial school my weight was creeping up, I had moved to the dark and rainy NW, and I had left sunny California, so all my routines were totally changed.
I knew I could NOT “see” food the way I did for the rest of my life. I knew I needed change.
I ended up going to therapy… one of my therapists was a marriage and family therapist. Together we discussed a lot of parent-child relationship dynamics from my childhood. The other was specifically focused on food/body issues. Without both of them, I WOULD NOT be where I am today.
I am not 126 pounds anymore, thank goodness, but I am a healthy weight, I don’t “WATCH” everything I eat, and I experience food freedom daily. I eat a whole-foods well rounded diet, and I don’t overtrain anymore.
So now you know why I am so passionate about this topic — the thing I want you to take away from this video is that YOU HAVE TO ADDRESS YOUR INNER WORLD TO LOSE WEIGHT AND KEEP IT OFF LONGTERM.
How do we address the inner world? First steps is I like to ask people a few questions, since many people will say they need to lose 5-10 to more pounds
- Why do you want to lose weight?
- Have you been at this weight for your whole life?
- Have you yo-yoed a lot?
- Any history of disordered eating or eating disorders? If so, what kind?
- Do you have a past history of dieting?
- What’s your internal dialogue like when it comes to your body?
- … when it comes to food?
- What is your relationship with food like?
- Any past history of trauma? ANY KIND
and with these… we begin to piece together your story. These questions help me figure out what to do next.
For instance, some have a healthy relationship with food and body, but some health problems caused the weight gain, so we proceed treating those. Some have very poor relationship with food and body, that they didn’t even realize so we refer out to a counselor for therapy. Some people have a huge history of trauma that they have no idea is related to their weight loss issues or their being overweight.
OBESITY IS NOT JUST PHYSICAL, IT IS A MENTAL DISORDER.
Bold statement, but I see it in my patients, this is especially true for the morbidly obese.
Many self worth or mental issues can be BURIED under years of coping mechanisms, so it doesn’t always come out immediately. So if I am referring out… I usually recommend a combo of therapies depending what the person has tried.
- eating disorder savvy nutrition savvy therapist
- marriage/family therapist
- body positive health coach
- talk therapy, CBT, or EMDR
And to wrap things up, this discussion comes with a few caveats…
We are all incredibly special and capable because we are humans, and I believe we were all created with a purpose, but I also refuse to subscribe that being overweight is healthy. I see this often become mixed up in todays culture… We are moving away from shaming “fat” people to embracing obesity and calling obese people “beautiful” AND completely ignoring their health condition, because we are trying to make everyone feel included.
Inclusivity can be a great thing, but I think with body weight, it has the potential to really go south.
I don’t believe you can have “health at every size.”
I believe people are in different spots and EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT.
I am mostly speaking to overweight people who don’t acknowledge their excess body fat is an issue or people who use health at every size to justify being over weight – I HAVE SEEN this.
Not everyone is going to be in an ok place to be making body changes, so don’t take this the wrong way. Not everyone is in a space to lose weight. I wish America as a country would own that we have an obesity problem and now we are glorifying it as a society. I don’t believe in health at every size because some of those people, if you ran their blood work, would look like a physiological mess. Fat is an endocrine organ. Fat is inflammatory. Inflammation leads to disease and chronic illness. This has been well established in all the medical literature.
So how do you determine a healthy body weight for you?
- Hunger / energy / cravings / sleep / mood has to be in check, balanced, and functioning smoothly
- Weight has to be within the BMI scale
- Body composition matters more – get your body fat tested, I like water testing
- A weight you can easily maintain with a diet that’s based in whole foods and is sustainable each day that includes healthy fats, all varieties of vegetables, and healthy proteins
- A weight where your labs look good – HBA1C, glucose, insulin, cholesterol, hormones, chemistries, etc.
For more explanation on any of the topics discussed above – find this video on my YouTube!