How to Separate Weight from Happiness

Have you ever said to yourself: “I’ll just lose those last __ lbs then I’ll be happy” or “If I could just lose __ lbs then I would finally love my body!”
Tying your happiness to your weight can have more of a negative impact on your body, health, and quality of life than you may realize.
Why this belief is so common? Where did it come from?

In a global study of women, they found that 90% wanted to change their appearance, with reducing body weight and changing body shape ranking as the number one thing they wanted to change.

That is interesting right off the bat because 90% of women are not ALL in larger bodies, so that’s including plenty of women in average and smaller bodies too.

The study also found that how women felt about their bodies was closely related to their self-esteem: disliking their bodies meant that they disliked themselves.

It stems from this storyline we’re fed by the diet industry from a young age that there’s a very specific way our body should look, a culturally ideal body, and once we look that way then this whole new, wonderful world opens up to us, we feel great about our body, we become happy, healthy, accepted, loved, successful… so naturally, we strive for that.

What happens if we don’t look like how we’re taught we’re supposed to? How does that trigger destructive behaviors around food/exercise?

If we don’t look like that culturally ideal body, which only a very small percentage of people naturally do, then we’re taught our body is the enemy, it’s not good enough and it needs to be fixed and changed.

We’re not only told by the diet industry that there’s 1 way we should look, but we’re also presented with 1 way to that ideal destination. We’re taught to use food and exercise, things that should be fun and pleasurable, as weapons against our body to manipulate, manage, and change our body. We use food and exercise as ways to control, restrict and discipline ourselves.

It’s a shame-based industry that profits so much from our insecurities and making us feel like our bodies are the wrong shape and size based on a very small, rigid image of what they declare beauty and health to look like. Because after all, if we feel bad about ourselves and are offered a solution – usually some a plan, program, or product that promises to ‘fix’ us, we’ll likely buy it!

What other costs or negative impacts this belief is having on us?

When we actively pursue weight loss, we’re essentially setting ourselves up for failure.

All long term studies of those who used food and exercise as tools to control/manipulate their weight, show 95% of them gain it back within 5 years. They also found that over half of them gain even more within that same timeframe.

That’s because our bodies are designed to keep us at homeostasis and when it senses its natural signals and cues are being ignored or overridden, it fights back. It does not like being controlled or restricted. On the outside, that ‘fighting back’ looks like cravings, emotional eating, obsessive/constant food and body stress thoughts, and even overeating/binge eating.

So if you fall in that 95% range – even if you do see results, weight loss with that type of approach, your results will not be sustainable and you will likely find yourself in a worse position over time the more you try to force things.

Also, we make how we feel about our body and ourselves conditional on our shape and size as oppose to unconditional, which impacts the actions we take.

For example, if you’re a parent, when your kids were babies, did you say things like “hmm you have a lot of baby fat, so I don’t love you yet, but when you lose some weight, then I’ll love you.”

NO! 🙂 That’s conditional vs unconditional. No matter what the problems are, how much fat they have, how much they’re throwing up on you, keeping you up…you love them. And from that love you naturally want to take care of them, right?

You don’t have to force it, you don’t have to use your willpower, it’s just natural to want to treat them well and give them good things. It works the same with your body. We tend to have things in reverse order.

How to take initial steps to overcome this myth:

It starts with your approach. You can still want to lose weight and that’s fine, but fighting against the body and forcing change isn’t a smart strategy. Neither is putting living your best life on hold until you look a certain way.

Start by separating how you feel about your body from how much you weigh or what you look like. Understand that weight is not a behavior, it’s an outcome. We’re not in control of outcomes, we’re only in control of our behaviors.

Focus on taking action that makes you feel good. Do things that you enjoy and can see yourself doing forever. And start doing those things you have been putting off until you look a certain way.

If your body has weight to lose, you will still lose it, but it’ll actually stay off, feel way easier, and you’ll be living a more happy & fulfilling life in the meantime.

Like the baby example, we naturally want to take care of what we care about, we don’t have to force it and it doesn’t have to be hard. But it starts with a choice.

Challenge yourself to think about how you can start treating your body like you care about her!