How to make peace with weight gain? Part 1
A lot of my clients are in the midst of developmental milestones with their physiology. They are Mum’s navigating changes to their post-baby bodies or women going through perimenopause or menopause and they are struggling to make peace with weight gain.
This creates new vulnerabilities for body image distress and eating issues for women.
Young or middle aged, for many, the focus on appearance and youth intensifies as their bodies age and progress through the natural stages that include weight gain, greying hair, and wrinkled skin.
The good news is, there is another way to live. And that way is found when you stop fighting the size your body wants to be and you start working with your body.
If you’re new to the non-diet approach, intuitive eating and body image healing here’s 5 tips to help you make peace with your weight that little bit easier.
This is how you can make peace with your weight?
1. Understand that weight gain for women in their 40’s and 50’s is normal and healthy.
As much as we hate the “middle age spread”, it is thanks to hormonal changes that we go through during peri/menopause.
Essentially we have a drop in oestrogen which causes an increase in central adiposity (stomach fat), insulin sensitivity and a slower metabolism.
“When your ovaries no longer produce oestrogen, the body’s adipose tissue (fat tissue) takes over to produce and regulate oestrogen in the body. An increase in body fat is our bodies’ way of adapting in order to regulate oestrogen production as we age. Since oestrogen depletion is the main cause of many of the negative side effects associated with menopause, increased regulation of this hormone can help mitigate many of these undesirable symptoms”.
Research shows it is natural for women to gain anywhere from three to six (plus) kilograms during menopause no matter how good our diets are.
Instead of obsessing about losing the weight, we can think about it like this – as a moderate weight gain that is associated with longer life. check out the research below:
People who live in a larger body as defined by their Body Max Index (BMI) — tend to live longer than their normal-weight counterparts, according to a new Danish study.
2. Accept that your body will never be perfect (and that perfect doesn’t exist).
The first thing I want to say about this is – Victoria’s Secret models get photoshopped…full stop.
Honestly, how many YEARS have you wasted trying to lose weight and wishing your body looked differently? Where did all that body hate get you?
At some point, you need to decide that your body is okay. You may not like it or love it right now, but it is what it is – your home. Your one and ONLY body.
No amount of hating it is going to change it. No amount of dieting is going to change it long-term or leave you potentially without eating issues and health issues connected to yo-yo’ing weight loss and gain.
However, this does not mean you stop working towards being healthy. This is not about giving up!
What it does mean is you will stop punishing and hating body and yourself for not conforming to your (and societies) unrealistic views of what your body “should” look like. And instead, you begin learning to accept and surrender to the body you inherited.
When you start being kind and respectful towards yourself, eating healthier and moving more does become easier.
I inherited big saggy boobs and a double chin. My sister and I always joke around about having “the family chins”. No matter how thin I get, I always have two or three chins! I’ll never have a nice jawline.
I have more than one stomach roll when I sit down (which is normal) and cellulite all over on my thighs. I spent two decades hating my body, when that time, energy and money could have been put to much better use.
At some point, I realised that hating my body was ruining my life and getting me nowhere. When I finally accepted my natural shape, looking after my body with intuitive eating and regular enjoyable movement became so much easier.
It also gave me back my sanity, mental health, social life, and better relationships.
My body isn’t perfect but it’s healthy and strong.
3. Understand that Set Point Weight Theory is real.
The research on this is clear.
There are genetic, biological, environmental, social and other non-diet related factors that determine a person’s unique ‘set point range’. The weight a person naturally tends to be without restricting food and over exercising.
And that weight will, of course, be different for everyone.
For example, height is mostly determined by genetic factors – some environmental factors may influence it a little, but for the most part, it is what it is.
Some people are shorter than average while others are taller than average. People generally accept that we can’t change our height, it’s just the way we were born.
Think of all of the thousands of different dog breeds that have different body shapes, lifespans and health risks.
Each one has evolved to use food differently for different specialities at surviving; some for staying warm, some for running fast, and some for being strong.
Dogs are meant to be different shapes, sizes and consequently, their weight will be different.
We don’t expect all dogs to weigh the same, but our modern society has brainwashed us into believing all bodies should be the same size – one size fits – thin. Stop and think critically, how realistic is that?
When you look at your great grandmother, grandmother, mother and siblings, what kind of body did or do they have?
For the most part, most people will have similar body shapes and sizes, or similar features such as bigger breasts and rounder tummies.
Also know that the research tells us weight is also influenced by socio-economic factors, trauma, social support or the lack thereof, and freedom from racism, violence, sexism, poverty, weight stigma, and so on.
Perhaps your set point weight range is higher than average, higher than you’d like it to be, or higher than others (your doctor, family, the media, etc.) have said it ‘should’ be…then what?
This is where we can return to the example of height, and remind ourselves of the idea that ‘it is what it is’.
You cannot change your genetic makeup or your natural set point weight range. Therefore, being at peace with your weight involves full acceptance of your body as it is—height, weight, shape, and all!
4. Stay off the scale and focus on healthy behaviours, not weight.
If there was someone in your life that made you feel terrible about yourself 90% of the time, a typical response would be to set your boundaries with that person and stop seeing them.
Therefore, one of your first steps to making peace with your weight, is to recognise if you have a toxic relationship with your scale?
Your weight will continue to matter more than it needs to until you stop getting on the scale. It will also keep you stuck in a cycle of dieting, obsessing about food (which often means you eat more, not less) and hating your body.
Instead, focus on how your clothes fit and feel, and if they are starting to feel a bit tight, the best thing you can do is buy yourself a couple of new pieces of clothing that fit your now body. Check out the op shops for second-hand pieces.
When you feel pretty. You feel confident.
It’s also remarkable how well-fitting clothes can actually make you appear thinner without losing a pound.
When I stopped intentioanlly trying to lose weight and started focusing on being healthy instead, I ended up stabilising my weight, naturally, and easily.
5. Know that everyone (who matters) loves you as you are.
Hey, I get it. This can sound just as cliched as someone saying to a single person, there’s plenty of fish in the sea…
However, when you get to a point in your relationship with your body and you’re at peace with your weight, you really do not care what other people think. You’re doing this for yourself.
In saying that, one of the many things I learnt in my eating and body image recovery, is that people don’t demand a perfect body from you. They love you for you.
Fat, thin, curvy or athletic. Your smile, your warmth, your dedication, your creativity, your humour, your love…you.
In all honesty, it’s what’s on the inside that matters the most. You don’t love your best friend because she’s a “good” weight, you love her for who she is.
Now, none of this will come easy. We live in a thin is best world (apparently). We can’t escape that, but we can become resilient to it.
At the end, when our bodies are changing, it’s time to hold on and not put yourself under additional stress.
Just as in previous changes: puberty, pregnancy, etc., things will settle down.
Any time you’re tempted to start another diet, I suggest to my clients to write a list of the pros and cons to starting another diet.
Think honestly about the way you would need to eat, move and live in order to achieve and maintain your ideal weight?
What would the likely outcome be?
How long would that outcome last for?
Would you be happy and healthy physically, mentally and emotionally?
I’m not against weight loss.
However, if you want to make peace with your weight, your body and food, any weight loss should be an added bonus through changing health behaviours you can sustain. Not by being stuck in a rinse and repeat cycle of dieting, eventual bingeing and body dissatisfaction.
If you feel chronically unhappy with your body and weight, this is very similar to spending your life driving around in your car with the hand brake on. It is physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually draining and damaging.
Have faith that there is another world out there waiting for you on the other side of diets and weight loss obsession.
The more you can be patient, and take the long view, the more you’ll be rewarded in the end. This all takes time. Time for you to learn how to be at ease in your body and to get to know what she can and can’t do (yet).
Nothing stays the same, ever, whether we want it to or not. Especially our bodies.
If you want more help to make peace with food and your weight, and do it right, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.