A topic that has cropped up with clients recently is the question of what to do if they keep trying to eat more healthfully, exercise and take better care of their bodies and still don’t lose weight. Clients dance around this question and I suspect I do too at times. They want reassurance that if they finally “do things right,” good things, aka weight loss, will surely follow, but are terrified that it won’t. And I can’t make any guarantees.
The fact is that, even after working with hundreds of dysregulated eaters for three decades, I cannot tell you, a specific person, if you will lose the weight you would like to lose. I’ve had clients lose no weight, some weight, or a great deal of weight. I’ve had clients leave therapy unhappy at their same weight and get in touch down the line (months or years later) to say that the pounds have finally come off.
Equally, there are clients for whom this has not been the outcome. They’re more intuitive eaters, are more relaxed around food, enjoy regular exercise, and eat nutritiously for the most part. Their clothes fit better, their body is stronger and moves more easily, they have better self-care and higher self-esteem, and their lab numbers and health have greatly improved. And, yet, their weight hasn’t dropped much, if at all.
This is one of the reasons that I deliberately focus on eating and not weight with clients and in my books. Weight is a highly complex subject. It’s not as easy as adding two and two and getting four. It’s not simply about calories in and energy out. We don’t all start out on an equal playing field by a long shot and genetics, trauma, abuse, neglect, stress, chronic dieting, and other factors play a big part in determining body size.
So, what can you choose to do if you are learning “normal” eating and improved self-care and worry that you’re not losing weight (or losing as much as you would like to)? You can:
- Stop focusing on weight loss, by not weighing yourself and trying on smaller clothes to see if they’ll finally fit.
- Enjoy and focus on what has improved in your life: your relationship with food and your body, self-esteem, and health. You can put your attention solely on these positives and not a perceived negative.
- Accept your body as is and quit being dissatisfied with your efforts and feeling like a failure. You can focus on the fact that if you hadn’t made tried to change, you wouldn’t have come this far and would be worse off.
Remember that you’re not a bad person for wanting to lose weight and you’re not wrong to want to feel normal in our thin obsessed, fat phobic society. However, also remember that this culture’s range of normal regarding weight is very slim and almost impossible for most people to achieve. If you’re taking the best care of your mind and body that you possibly can, it makes no sense to spend your life pining to be something that you need not be in order to have health and happiness. You may not be able to achieve weight loss per se, but you can certainly choose to enjoy your best life in spite of it.