A client recently told me about what an odd occurrence that she didn’t understand. She’d just received an invitation to a friend’s wedding that she wished to attend, which made her think about wanting to lose weight which, in turn, made her want to eat. “What,” she asked, “is that about?” It’s about a common paradoxical phenomenon if there ever was one.
I hope that understanding this cause-and-effect dynamic will help reduce or prevent it from occurring, while moving you toward a more sane relationship with food and the scale. To understand what’s going on, you’ll want to examine your relationship with dieting and with weight loss and regain. Ask yourself: “What emotions come up for me when I think or talk about wanting to lose weight?” Try to be as specific as possible.
I’d wager that the subject prompts fear, frustration, despair, failure, or other negative emotions from your previous experiences trying to shed pounds. If the process of losing weight generates intense feelings of deprivation and unfairness, your feelings are perfectly natural. No matter how it’s talked up and touted, the process of restricting food is not a pleasant one for most people. If restriction and weight-loss triggered rebound eating and weight regain for you, you’re likely also to feel trapped, as if you’re damned if you do try to lose weight and damned if you don’t.
Are you starting to see the dual parts to this issue? The first is your memories of what it was like to restrict food in order to shed pounds. The second is your memories of what happened after all that restriction: weight loss—followed by weight regain. You may not realize that you’re getting triggered by unconsciously recalling these dispiriting struggles of both dieting and weight regain, but that is what is happening. No wonder you’re upset; these are hardly joyful memories.
Here’s the last piece of the puzzle. When you’re upset, what do you generally do to comfort yourself? You eat, of course, and that’s where the craving for food comes in. You’re not anticipating an upbeat future but, rather, are recalling your battles with food and the pounds that vanished and returned. That’s why you’re dying to dive into that leftover linguini. One way out is to totally stop focusing on weight loss and start making your goal exclusively health and self-care. Another way out is to not even consider dieting for quick weight-loss, but to practice “normal” eating. Remember, you don’t want to stir up your deprivation or weight regain memories but, rather, establish a new goal of improving your eating or fitness to feel better in your body and to have a healthier one.