Why we feel bad when we put on weight.....


I was on my local radio station on Saturday and just as we were about to start, the producer took a photo of me and the presenter.

Nothing unusual there, I often take photos of myself…. But this one ended up being tweeted by BBC Radio Bristol and when it came up on my twitter feed, I have to admit, I was shocked to see how much fatter I looked. (I’m using the word fat by the way, because I don’t have a problem using it with regard to myself, but sorry if this is a bit challenging for you reading).

My first thought was shock and then I read the words underneath and they said I was going on to chat about ‘healthy eating’ and my thought process went along the lines of, “well, no-one’s going to think I know about healthy eating when they see THAT picture…..”

Oh dear! 

It takes a lot for me to admit to that thought process, because, bear in mind, I’m all about Body Positivity and I truly believe that we should not be judging people for their size. I am totally opposed to weight stigma and weight prejudice because I see it all the time, and yet, there I was, doing it to myself. 

Me and Dr Phil Hammond on Saturday. 

Me and Dr Phil Hammond on Saturday. 

So, this really got me thinking. I put a post on my Facebook page this morning asking if anyone had any comments. I asked:

1.    How do we feel when we put on weight?

2.    If we feel bad about it, why is this?

3.    How can we feel ok (or, better than OK) if we have put on weight.

I guess this was quite an ask for a Tuesday morning, but sometimes, I like to put stuff out there and get people thinking…

I know, that for many (most) people, putting on weight will feel like a ‘bad’ thing to happen. I can’t think of any previous clients who have been pleased to put on weight, and in fact, this is the thing that most of us are scared of, and what drives diet culture. And we know how that goes….. (if you don’t, look at blog "But, I want to lose weight")            

I was really curious to observe my reaction to visible evidence that I had put on weight. It’s not as if I don’t know about the subject, because I do! I guess we are all a product of the society we live in and even though I’ve done A LOT of work on loving the body I have NOW, rather than hankering after a smaller one, I was surprised to see the change. And particularly my initial reaction to the change. Then I thought I could use the example to share how I got out of this thought pattern. So here we go….

Why do we feel bad when we put on weight, or are a heavier than ‘average’ weight?

This is due to cultural influences. We are taught from a very young age to appreciate a slender body, through media and advertising. Billboards, adverts on buses and magazines. The messages get through, even at very young age. Many people I know tell stories of their 5 year olds talking about being ‘fat’ or calling people fat. As our children get older, their exposure to these messages increases hugely via social media on smart phones and the pressure is immense. I can’t remember the exact figures but we get exposed to thousands of messages like this EVERY DAY.

And not only that,

because we are all exposed to these messages, we start to believe them.

So we start to treat people differently. We assume that people who are (have) fat are lazy, or eat too much, or exercise too little and that it’s their fault.  I saw exactly these comments on a debate I caught a bit of the other day. People believe it and they make judgements both consciously and unconsciously. This happens everywhere, in places of work, in the health and fitness industry, in the fashion industry, in our nhs, in our wider society. This increases the shame that people can feel when they are overweight. You see, even the term ‘overweight’ is a judgement. When you say someone is overweight you imply their body is wrong-They are bigger than they should be, they are a problem that needs fixing, they should be smaller and actively trying to get smaller. Except of course, that when you actually look into this, you discover that dieting doesn’t work and makes us fatter. So, really, can we please stop telling people to go on a diet? Yes, I mean you Public Health England!!

No wonder we start to think we should look a certain way.

And when we don’t, we think it’s our fault for not being ‘normal’ when in fact, we are normal, it is the images we see all the time that aren’t.

And you are probably thinking, either, 'yes, she has a point' OR,  I’ve already blown your mind- BUT, "being larger than average is unhealthy." At what point does this kick in though, who says what weight or BMI this is? And actually, you can’t tell just by looking at someone if they are healthy or not. People think they can, but they can’t. Just because someone looks thin, does NOT mean they are healthy. They could have lost weight due to illness, or be restricting their food intake (AKA dieting) in order to lose weight and could be in a very unhappy place, obsessing about food and calories…. Not very healthy is it?

I’m going to resist the urge to talk about the ‘Health at Every Size’ philosophy now because this is too much text for one blog. But, briefly, there is another approach to this, which leads to better health outcomes, even for people who are what we call ‘morbidly obese’ (nice terminology BTW) and it involves unlearning diet thinking, learning mindful eating and finding the JOY in movement.

So, no wonder I had a wobble when I saw my photo.

I instantly thought that people might make assumptions about ME based on my size. And I guess they might. They might think ‘what does she know about healthy eating when she looks like that?’ but you know what, if they do, they aren’t going to be the people I want to work with and help out of diet thinking. Because I believe in Body Diversity, which is accepting AND RESPECTING people of ALL shapes and sizes. I accept myself whether I am this size, or the smaller version of me, which might reappear when I start moving my body more again, and finding more time to look after ME, instead of trying to grow my business all the time!!

It is all about balance, and I’m still learning too. Learning how to run and grow a business, learning how to keep being self-compassionate, remembering to tune out the negative stuff and focus on what I want, not what I don’t want.

In my next blog, I’m going to tell you more about how to feel ok (or better than ok) if we have put on weight….because it’s our thinking that needs to change, not our bodies….

If you need help with food/weight/letting go of dieting or your Body Image you can book a free 30 minute session with me via the button below......Just CLICK on it! xx