ETR 279: When You Fear Weight Gain (Body Image Series)

SummerBody Image, Eat the Rules, Self-Love, Self-Worth

When You Fear Weight Gain (Body Image Series)
When You Fear Weight Gain (Body Image Series)

In this episode of Eat the Rules, I’m talking about what to do when you fear weight gain, as part of the body image series.

I also explore where this fear comes from and how it holds us back.

In This Episode, I Chat About

  • The importance of aiming for unconditional acceptance,
  • How losing weight can often amplify this fear,
  • This fear’s root in anti-fat bias and anti-Blackness,
  • The issue of accessibility and how our culture is the problem,
  • How fear can make our lives smaller,
  • That moving past fear involves taking gradual steps moving outside of your comfort zone,
  • The importance of unpacking your belief system and challenging it,
  • 2 game-changing reframes to help you move past this fear,
  • Plus, 4 things we have to be doing on an ongoing basis to undo this conditioning,
  • Plus so much more!

Listen Now (transcript below)

Watch on YouTube

Don’t forget, I’m on iTunes! You can be one of my kick-ass subscribers. Also, I would be SO GRATEFUL if you took 2 minutes to leave a review. Go here -> click “Reviews and Ratings” and then “Click to Rate”.

Links Mentioned in Show


Summer Innanen:
This episode of eat the rules is brought to you by you on fire you on fire is the online group coaching program that I run that gives you a step by step way of building up your self worth beyond your appearance. With personalized coaching from me incredible community support and lifetime access to the program so that you can get free from body shame and live life on your own terms. Get details on what’s included and sign up for the next cycle at summer forward slash you on fire. I’d love to have you in that group. This is eat the rules, a podcast about body image self worth, anti dieting, and intersectional feminism. I am your host summer Innanen. a professionally trained coach specializing in body image self worth and confidence and the best selling author of body image remix. If you’re ready to break free of societal standards and stop living behind the number on your scale, then you have come to the right place. Welcome to the show.

I accept this body, but there’s no way I can handle gaining weight. I know I’m still restricting food a bit, but I’m terrified of gaining weight. If I gain weight, my partner won’t find me attractive anymore. Do any of those statements sound familiar to you? One of the most common struggles that I see with clients is fear of weight gain. And that’s what we’re unpacking today. This is episode 279. And it’s another installment of the body image series. You can find the links and resources mentioned at summer forward slash 279. I want to give a shout out to Sarah churchmen who left this review summer’s podcast is amazing all in caps. I have learned so much about body image from listening to eat the rules and it truly feels like a friend is talking to me who totally wants the best for me. It’s such an easy to listen to podcast, I really appreciate everything summer has taught me. Thank you so much, Sarah, I really really appreciate that review. That’s so kind of you. You can help out the show by leaving a review as well go to Apple podcasts search for eat the rules, click ratings and reviews and click to leave a review. Don’t forget to grab the free 10 Day body confidence makeover at summer Forward slash freebies with 10 steps to take right now to feel better in your body. And if you are a professional who works with people who may also have body image struggles, get the free body image coaching roadmap at summer forward slash roadmap.

Today we’re unpacking what to do when you are afraid of weight gain. This is a really, really common struggle I see amongst my clients. Obviously, when we first start working together, it’s a really common struggle. But even along in the process of body acceptance, I find that a lot of people get to a point where they’re comfortable in the body that they have. They accept the body that they have. But they’re still really afraid if their body changes. And that is what we’re going to talk about today. Specifically, we’re going to cover how that fear holds us back where that fear comes from, and two reframes that are going to help you to move past this fear, plus what we need to be doing the four things we need to be doing on an ongoing basis to really undo this conditioning. Before I get to that, I want to acknowledge that I’m speaking from a place of privilege as someone who is straight size, someone who is white and doesn’t experience discrimination based on my body. I’ll be speaking from my experience as a coach that’s been working with people in all bodies since 2014. And I’m also going to give you some resources for other people to check out as well as talk about how finding community with others who have lived experience is an integral part of this work as well. Let’s start off by talking about how our fear of weight gain holds us back. When we’re afraid of weight gain, it can impact so many aspects of our relationship with food and our bodies. So first off, it can dictates what we eat or don’t eat. So if you’re afraid of eating something, because if you eat it, it might cause you to gain weight, then you know, that’s impacting your relationship with food. Similarly, if you’re choosing to work out in a particular way, because you think that that’s going to help change the way your body looks, then that’s also impacting your relationship with movement. And that’s why to really heal our relationship with food and movement. It’s really important to work on that fear of weight gain. We can also let that fear of weight gain dictate how we live our life, whether we decide to date so for example, I’ll hear from clients that will say I’m afraid to meet someone new because what if I gain weight? I’ve seen it impact how people choose to invest in clothing for themselves. So they don’t want to buy clothes. Because what if they gain weight, so they kind of stick with clothes that might be sort of uncomfortable. And I will just say to this, like, we generally pretty easily buy clothes when we lose weight. And so I always just throw that counter argument out there. I know accessibility is a huge issue there. I’m going to talk about that in a bit. But I also just want to say like, if you lost weight, and you would easily buy clothes that fit you, then when you gain weight, you might want to consider giving yourself that same permission. And yeah, self respect and self love. That fear of weight gain gets in the way of body acceptance, too.

So what I often see is that people are comfortable with their current body, but they are still afraid of experiencing any change. And one of the things that I like to reinforce is that we want to be aiming for unconditional acceptance, because the reality is, our bodies are going to change. And so we want to be comfortable with the fact that our bodies will and do change. It’s a totally normal phase to go through to get to a place where you’re like, Okay, I’m comfortable with this body. But if my body changes, I’m not going to be okay, that’s a normal part of the process. But I would encourage you not to stop there, we really want to aim for unconditional acceptance. In other words, like whatever happens to my body, I want to be okay with it. And of course, you may still have uncomfortable emotions. But we don’t want it to be something that like puts you into a tailspin or panic or causes you to, you know, engage in disordered behaviors. The other thing I want to mention here is that sometimes we think we can protect ourselves from a fear of weight gain by losing weight, like if I lose weight, then I won’t have this fear. But what I find is that when people lose weight, the fear actually gets amplified even more, just in my experience what I’ve noticed with people, so in order to lessen this fear, we have to work on the fear of changing our body isn’t going to protect us from that fear.

Let’s explore where this fear comes from. This fear of weight gain is really coming from anti fat bias, which is the belief that fat is bad, and then is good, which comes from anti blackness. So if you haven’t already, definitely check out podcast episodes 264 with Jessica Wilson and Episode 265, with Chrissy King, where they talk about the connection between anti fatness and anti blackness. But the beliefs that we have about bodies are really rooted in that the book fearing the black body by Sabrina strings is also a great book to pick up and read if you want to get in more in depth information about that connection between anti fatness and anti blackness. But it’s really coming from those body hierarchies in our culture that say certain bodies are more worthy than others based on their size, their shape, their skin color, their age, etc, etc. And all of those beliefs are really harmful narratives that we’ve learned. And they don’t benefit us as individuals because they make us hate our own body, or they make us feel like we’re unworthy. And they certainly don’t benefit the greater good. Because we’re upholding weight stigma, we’re perpetuating discrimination. And that’s obviously a terrible thing. That said, because of those things, it really makes sense that we would be afraid of weight gain, accessibility is a big issue. So whether or not you’re going to be able to fit into airplane seats or roller coasters or actually, you know what, I’m going to rephrase that airplane seats and roller coasters aren’t made to accommodate all bodies. The majority of clothing stores only cater to straight size folks, doctors deny people medical procedures based on their size. And it makes sense to fear those things, it makes sense to fear that you’re going to lose access to these things, but you’re going to be treated differently in our culture or if you are already experiencing that discrimination, that it would further kind of you know, make that even worse. It makes sense that we would want to protect ourselves from the end.

So I just want to like really emphasize the point that it’s our culture. That’s the problem, not your body. That’s why I rephrased that sentence about airplane seats because I think it’s important to acknowledge that it’s not that your body doesn’t fit in airplane seats is that airplane seats aren’t made for all bodies. And so that just that phrasing of it can again place the blame back on the culture where it belongs. And that fear is coming from this place where we fear that will be unsafe. So we fear that we might be judged rejected experienced discrimination have less access to things so if Coming from this very protective place, right? Like, we want safety, we want to feel safe at all times, anytime there’s fear, there’s that connection to like this sense of like, I’m not going to be safe or I’m not safe. And so that’s really where that’s coming from. Conversely, we’ve learned that smaller bodies have greater social currency. So smaller bodies are considered more desirable, more successful, more confident, we just perceive them as having happier lives. And therefore it makes sense that we would want that and that we would fear losing that or proximity to that, on a cultural level, this is where these beliefs are coming from. So we know where these beliefs are coming from, we have internalized these things. And on top of that, they were likely reinforced by experiences that you had in your life. Something I see all the time is that I have clients, pretty much every client, I have had a parent that dieted, and, or like criticize their body. So immediately you start learning that like, okay, you know, thinner is better, I need to be controlling my body. Oftentimes, we’ve had someone tell us that we need to lose weight, or that they, you know that there’s something wrong with our body, that it’s unattractive. And we internalize all of those moments. And that’s what forms the beliefs we have about our body. That’s why when we talk about fear, we need to understand like where it’s coming from, from a cultural perspective. And then we also need to understand what that means to us on a deeper individual level. So what I mean by that is, our belief about gaining weight represents something to us, that’s igniting that fear of weight gain. And when we’re in the process of trying to overcome that fear of weight game, we have to figure out what that represents to us. And that’s what I do when I work with people. I’m going to give you one example, though. So one common belief I see is people have a belief that if they gain weight, it means that they’re going to be unlovable, and that they’re going to be alone that no one’s going to want to be in a relationship with them. And that might have been reinforced through like what we’ve seen in our culture, because we really don’t see a lot of folks being represented and like, you know, romantic comedies and things like that. Or it may have come from like a personal experience where you were rejected because of the way that you looked, or you just sort of thought the way your brain kind of put it together. And so when we start to unpack where these fears come from, and what they mean to us, because what it means to you is going to be different than what it means to me or somebody else, we can see that it all comes from this, like very innocent and protective place within us, right? Like it’s trying to protect us from being hurt, it’s trying to keep us safe. And so again, like that fear is there for a reason, it’s there to try and protect us. And fear is useful in a lot of instances. Like if you’re about to step off the sidewalk, and almost get hit by a car, like the fear is going to like you’re going to get that fear and immediately jump back onto the sidewalk. So that makes sense, right? Like it’s going to try and protect you. However, the fear shows up far too often. And it can often do us a disservice. Because it can make our lives smaller. What I mean by that is when our fear is saying like, Hey, you shouldn’t wear that, because that shows your belly, or you look too big in that. And I’m saying this from my voice of fear. It’s not something I believe, but just, you know, that’s what our voice of fear says to us, that’s making our lives smaller, right? Because we’re saying like, well, I don’t want to wear this thing that I actually do want to wear, because I’m afraid people are gonna judge me, or, you know, I really want to be in a relationship, but I’m afraid to start dating, because I might get rejected. So you can see how fear might make your life smaller, because it might dictate your actions and cause you to do things that are actually counter to like maybe what you want to do in the life that you want. But that fear is just trying to protect you, you know, it’s trying to protect you from judgment or rejection. And ultimately, we have to think about what we want for ourselves, and whether we want to let fear run our lives. I want to insert a sidebar here. That’s really important. Because when I talk about fear, and I say things like, you know, if your fear is saying like, Oh, you shouldn’t wear that, that doesn’t mean that you have to do the opposite and just wear the damn clothing, although sometimes you can and you will, and maybe you should. But I just want to say that like I would never just for it say that to somebody because I think that it’s such an individual thing. And when I’m working with someone, there are steps that I always want to take with clients to build a foundation before they take steps outside of their comfort zone. And so I have 100% said that in the past and now I don’t believe that anymore. I think that when we are talking about working with people’s fear, we need to take gradual steps to move them outside of their comfort zone versus like just do the opposite of what fear is telling you because that might feel way too on and safe. And I don’t that could be like a probably a whole other podcast episode. I feel like I’ve talked about that before. Maybe that is a podcast episode I’ve done. Or maybe it’s just something I talk about all the time when I’m teaching this stuff.

In any event, I wanted to insert that sidebar, because I don’t want you taking away from this like, well, I’ll just do the opposite of what fear is telling me. And I mean, maybe you want to, and maybe you can, and maybe that will feel good for you. But I just want to caveat it with there’s usually a lot of things I do first with people before we take those steps. Okay, back to beliefs. What we want to do when it comes to fear of weight gain is really unpack the beliefs that we have and what they mean to us. So that’s a critical place to start. We need to uncover Okay, what does you know, what does fatness mean to me? What, what is fear of weight gain mean to me. And then we can start to challenge those beliefs. A lot of the work I do with people is around restructuring their belief system, helping them restructure their own belief system and challenging that anti fat bias that they have, and unpacking. So we’re constantly like unpacking and challenging. And it’s an iterative process. One thing that’s really helpful in that process that I want to share with you is seeking out stories and examples of the counter belief that you have. For example, if you believe that if you gain weight, someone’s not going to love you, you’ll never find a partner. And you’ll be alone, which first of all, there’s nothing wrong with being alone. But if that’s kind of a belief that sort of holds you back then seeking out stories of fat people who are in loving relationships can start to help the challenge that belief, we can do that by looking at social media and looking for examples of that, we can do that by listening to podcasts where we’re listening to other people’s stories. There’s the fat Joy podcast, which explicitly features or exclusively features stories from other folks, which I think is a much needed thing. So check that out. We can look at TV shows like there’s shrill with at Bryant, there’s somebody somewhere, there’s the newest survival of the thickest, which I just started watching, which I think is very promising. And so seeking out those stories is really key. And then also seeking out community with people who have the same lived experience as you is really important to, we need to hear from other people who have the same experiences as us. So definitely, that’s like a to do coming out of this podcast. The last thing I wanted to talk about as it relates to overcoming fear of weight gain is two reframes that I think can be really helpful. So number one, instead of thinking like, I need to eliminate this fear of weight gain, we’re not trying to eliminate the fear. The goal is to learn how to work with the fear. Because remember, fear is going to show up when we’re outside of our comfort zone. It’s coming from this place of protection. And what we want to do is learn to work with that fear, and live our life despite the fear. And eventually, the more we do that, it does start to get quieter, of course, fears always going to get activated by things. But if we learn tools to be able to address it and work with it, then we’re going to be in a much better position when we are faced with fear. A second reframe that I want to talk about here is thinking about fear a little differently. So fear is future thinking when we’re fearing things, we’re up in our heads. And we’re fearing about things that may or may not happen, when we’re doing that we are not in our body. So a reframe I want you to think about is trying to focus on being more in your body than in this state of like future fearing when we’re thinking about our body. from an outside perspective, we’re in this place of like self objectification where we’re fearing the future. And we’re thinking about ourselves as this object to be viewed and evaluated on based upon our appearance. And that term self objectification comes from Lindsay and Lexi Kate who wrote the book more than a body. So we want to think about whether or not we are kind of in our bodies, or whether we are self objectifying. And when we’re in our bodies, we’re in a place that’s called embodied like we’re in the state of embodiment. And so when we’re in a state of embodiment, we are in our body, you know, we’re feeling what we’re feeling, we’re noticing the sensations, we’re more in the present moment, we’re kind of mindful of what we’re experiencing in the here and now versus when we are starting to fear things. We’re kind of outside of ourselves. We’re thinking about what may or may not happen, we’re viewing ourselves as more of an object when it relates to weight gain. And so we want to do is really try to stay more in this place of embodiment, and connecting with like how we’re actually feeling in this present moment, versus thinking about the future and going down this place where we may start catastrophic sizing. So when we’re kind of in that future place, we’re more disembodied, and we’re viewing ourselves through the body hierarchies in our culture, and we’re viewing ourselves through this lens and this lens is really defined by anti fatness anti blackness. ageism, the male and we’re seeing ourselves live through the male gaze. And that’s not helpful. That’s not helpful to how we perceive ourselves. And that’s not going to help the fear. So when we can shift towards being more embodied and loyal to how we’re actually feeling, it can help to disrupt some of that fear. And that’s a tricky thing to do. It takes practice and work, especially if you have a history of eating disorders or disordered eating, because you’ve really trained yourself to stop listening to your body signals. We’ve distracted ourselves from how we actually feel. So bringing ourselves back to a place of embodiment can be much harder. But the more that we’re embodied, the more that we can be loyal to how we’re actually feeling versus what the mirror or our fear is telling us. And the other thing I just I wanted to mention is that it’s protective to be disembodied, it’s protective to self objectify Re. So we’ve been conditioned to see our body size and appearance, as if it’s a threat to our well being. So for example, it’s like believing if I gain weight, then it’s a threat to my well being because I may lose privileges, I may lose access, people may judge me. So therefore, I will be vigilant to see myself from this, like self objectified perspective, in order to try and control things to keep myself safe. I hope that made sense. You might need to rewind and listen to that again. In other words, when we’re disembodied, we’re just trying to protect ourselves. We’re like, Okay, well, I can change my body and protect myself or I can wear this and protect myself.

So that’s kind of what I’m trying to say there. So the reframe is be embodied versus disembodied, right? So instead of focusing on like, just dealing with the fear and thinking through the fear, think about like, okay, how can I bring myself back into my body. And that’s not to say, it’s going to completely eliminate the fear, because of the belief work that you do on top of that is really integral, as well as looking for ways to shift the energy of the fear. But it’s a really great place to start. And I love coming back to the present moment whenever fear is there, because it gives us an opportunity to attend to like what we’re actually experiencing in the here and now. So a summary as it relates to how to start to work through fear of weight game. Number one is we want to uncover and challenge the beliefs that we have about fitness and then ness and bodies and every kind of aspect of bodies like attractiveness, etc, etc. Number two is we want to learn to work with the fear. So understanding like what that fear means to us so that you can learn to work through it. Number three, we want to focus on on embodiment and being in the present moment. And number four, we always want to be seeking out stories that are going to help to challenge those beliefs as well as seeking out community where we’re in a place where we’re with others that have the same lived experience as us. So I hope that was helpful for you. I feel like that was a bit of like a meaty episode, you can let me know. We’ve got some other great body image series episodes coming out soon. You can find the links mentioned in this episode at summer Forward slash 279. Thank you so much for being here today. Can’t wait to talk to you again soon. Rock on. I’m Summer Innanen. And I want to thank you for listening today. You can follow me on Instagram and Facebook at summer Innanen. And if you haven’t yet, go to Apple podcasts search eat the rules and subscribe rate and review this show. I would be so grateful. Until next time, rock on.

    Share this Post