ETR 280: Dealing with Weight Changes (Body Image Series)

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

Podcast on Dealing with Weight Changes
Dealing with Weight Changes (Body Image Series)

In this episode of Eat the Rules, I’m walking you through a 3-phase framework to deal with weight changes, as part of the body image series.

I also talk about the importance of processing the feelings that come with weight changes.

In This Episode, I Chat About

  • Some of the reasons that dealing with weight changes can be really tough,
  • That body and weight changes are normal,
  • That it’s common to go onto investigation and problem-solving mode and the problem with that,
  • The distress of losing access to things because of body changes and that our culture is the problem,
  • The dangers of skipping over processing your feelings and grief,
  • The importance of unpacking beliefs,
  • That self-compassion is integral and it is not the same as positive self-talk,
  • Why we need to intentionally expose ourselves to a variety of bodies,
  • That avoiding discomfort doesn’t make it go away,
  • What it means to see yourself as a whole human,
  • That acceptance gives you time, energy, and freedom back,
  • Plus so much more!

Listen Now (transcript below)

Watch on YouTube

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Links Mentioned in Show


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.

Weight changes happen for many reasons. Whether you’re healing from dieting or you’re on a new medication or your weight is going up and you don’t really know why weight changes happen to everyone. They can be particularly distressing if you are already dealing with body shame, or you are experiencing weight stigma due to your weight change. We’re unpacking how to deal with weight changes in this week’s episode of eat the rules. This is episode 280. It’s another installment of the body image series. And I’m walking you through a three phase framework to deal with weight change. You can find all the links mentioned at summer forward slash 280.

I want to give a shout out to mom to high energy daughter who left this review I love summers interview style she gets right to the heart of the matter. She explores topics which helped with my everyday body image struggles and negative self talk. I’ve learned so much about societal pressures, long held beliefs and social justice. On top of that, she always cheers me up with her humor. Thank you, summer. Thank you so much. I really really appreciate that. Oh, and hey, you’re Canadian. What’s up. Thank you so much for leaving that review. So kind of you to take the time to do that. You can help me out by leaving a review for the show, go to Apple podcasts, search for eat the rules, and click ratings and reviews and click to leave a review. And subscribe via whatever platform you use. If you haven’t already, 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 provider who works with people who may also have body image struggles, I have something else for you. I have a free body image coaching roadmap, which you can find at summer forward slash roadmap.

All right. Before we get into today’s episode, I just need to vent. I’m recording this. It’s August, the time of that I’m recording this, this will go live till October. But I’m recording this in August. And my son’s in like this half day camp because his daycare was close this week. And then next week, he’s doing a gradual entry into kindergarten. So he only goes for an hour a day. So I basically have like no childcare, right? And I’m I feel like I’m drowning. I’m like, I just feel so overwhelmed this week at the time of this recording. I don’t know. I’m hoping I won’t feel though anymore, Although who knows. But I dropped my son off today. And they’re like, oh, by the way, tomorrow’s Animal Day. So your kid can dress up like an animal. And I’m just like, literally, the last thing I need is one more thing on my plate. And I just don’t understand why they do this to parents. And I know, it’s the moms who take the brunt of this. I know that we are the ones who end up having to paint these goddamn costumes. send our kids to these things with no notice. And anyway, sorry, I just needed to vent about it. Since like, we’re not going to talk to you today. It’s you. Okay, deep breath.

Let’s get started. In the previous episode, I talked about what to do when you’re afraid of waking because fear of weight gain can really hold us back and can keep the diet mentality alive. So if you didn’t listen to that one yet, you can check out episode 279. For more on that. And coming out of that one, I wanted to talk about what to do when you experience weight changes and specifically give you a framework for navigating weight changes. Again, I want to acknowledge that I hold an immense amount of body privilege as a white able bodied straight size cisgender woman so I realized that other people are gonna have a different lived experience with this. And as always, I recommend seeking out communities and other resources from people whose have the same lived experience with you. I’m going to be approaching this from my perspective as a coach who has been working with people in all different body sizes around body image since 2014.

So let’s first talk about like, why dealing with weight changes can be really tough. I work with a lot of people who were dieters, and they’ve discovered intuitive eating. And it’s quite normal to gain weight in that process. Like if you were under eating before you were over exercising, and you go through this healing process where you’re starting to allow all foods, it is normal to gain weight through that process, because you’re coming up to what would be like a healthier body weight for you, because you’re actually feeding yourself. But I know that that can be particularly distressing, because you’ve been trying to control your weight you’ve like all you’ve been focusing on for potentially decades of your life is either trying to keep your weight a certain number, or trying to get into an even smaller body and your body just never being enough. And so it can bring up a lot of feelings for people, it can bring up a lot of feelings of shame, or panic or failure disappointment. And so that’s a common reason that I see. And then sometimes we just gain weight. And we don’t know why we don’t always know why our body has changed, it just happens, like your body may just change. And there’s many factors that can influence it genetics, stress, social factors, hormones, medication changes in your environment, the thing is, is that we’ve been conditioned to sort of see body changes as related to the food that we eat, and how we move our body. And so we would immediately kind of assume like, well, it must be what I’m eating, or it must be like how I’m moving my body or not moving my body that’s really causing this weight gain. And the truth is, there’s just so much more to that our body size is dictated by so many other factors that bear a lot more importance than just what we eat and how we move our body. Of course, I just want to caveat that if you experience a sudden or dramatic body change, whether that’s a sudden weight gain, or a sudden weight loss, that can be a symptom of something else going on. So absolutely consult with a medical professional, if that’s your experience, ideally, one that’s Health at Every Size focused, although I know that’s like winning the lottery. So just do your best. But I don’t want anyone thinking hearing this and just thinking like, well, all weight changes are normal, sometimes they can be a symptom of something else going on. So if you feel like something else might be going on, definitely go and get that checked out. But in a lot of instances, body changes are just, they’re just normal, they’re a part of having a body. And when I work with people, I usually tell them to expect that changes may happen, especially as we age, body changes are going to happen. And when body changes happen, it’s really common to go into investigation and problem solving mode, meaning we start to question and evaluate what we did to cause the weight gain, we start to overanalyze everything were like, well, maybe it was because you know, I ate that food. Or maybe it’s because, you know, my new job is more sedentary, or whatever our brains want to figure things out. And in particular, when something’s distressing to us, our brain wants to really fix that it’s trying to like, you know, it’s trying to help us feel better. It’s a protective mechanism. And so when it comes to weight change, because we often perceive that as distressing, it’s really common for our brain to go into problem solving mode. The problem with that is that it keeps the diet mentality alive. It keeps anti fatness alive, the beliefs that we have that fat is bad and thin is good. And so it doesn’t help our relationship with food, it doesn’t help our relationship with our body. And oftentimes, like when I’m working with people, they can’t figure out why their body changed. And it just can be this kind of like you start to drive yourself up the wall trying to figure it out.

I also want to mention that body changes can be particularly distressing, if it means you’re losing access to things. So no longer being able to shop in stores at your local mall are no longer fitting on roller coasters or being now in a position where your doctor blames all of your health issues on your body size, versus treating you with respect and looking at you as a whole human being. So I want to reiterate that if that’s happening to you, it’s not your body. That’s the problem. It’s our culture. It’s anti fat bias. It’s racism. It’s all of those things that create these body hierarchies and cause people to face discrimination. So it’s not your fault. Our culture, demonizes weight gain plain and simple, and it makes us believe that it’s our fault. And it makes us believe that it’s a problem. So it makes sense that it would be distressing to gain weight. So if you’re feeling that, no, you’re not alone, and it’s normal to go through them. cushions around that. That said, Wouldn’t it be great if you could have some tools in your toolbox to be able to navigate weight change, to not see them as so distressing to not see what changes as that distressing. And to be able to get your footing a little bit better when your weight does change. It’s not to say you might not experience some emotions around it, because we are swimming in these waters. But to build some resiliency to be able to get through it without it like completely breaking you. So that’s why I wanted to talk about it today. That’s a lot of the work I do with people as well.

But what I want to cover today is a three phase framework. And this framework is just going to give you three phases that you can consider or working on when you experience weight changes. And the three phases are one grieve, to normalize and three connect. So first, we need the grave, then we can normalize, then we can connect, and I’m going to elaborate on each of those. And I’ll just say that this is not necessarily a step by step process. Rather, it’s quite individual. And you can be working on various components of these at the same time. When I’m working with people, I tend to do that depending on what their individual needs are, and what seems most pressing at the time of our conversation. So the first phase is about grieving. And a part of that is the mourning process. We’ve talked about grief on this podcast before we’ve talked about the mourning process that happens when you stopped dieting, and let go of your smaller body ideal. If you want to hear more about that check out episode 244 reclaiming body trust with Hilary Navy and Dana Sturdivant. But as a refresher, when we decide that we’re not going to diet anymore, we’re letting go of the hopes and dreams that we had attached to our kind of fantasy smaller body, like this body that we’ve been potentially spending decades working towards. Like I used to just say I was on this quest to lose the weight once and for all, I spent decades of my life doing that so much time, energy and money, and we have this fantasy attached to it, you know, we think that like, life is just going to be so much easier, I’m going to be weird to be able to just, you know, get dressed so easily, everyone’s going to think I’m attractive, and I’m just going to feel so good all the time. And so when we decide we’re not going to dye it anymore, we’re putting that dream down. That’s not to say that you can’t experience a lot of the things that you would attach to that dream. But it’s important to process the feelings around kind of letting that fantasy go, you know, letting that body go and letting go what you had attached to that body, what I find is that a similar mourning process needs to happen when our body changes. So for example, if you find yourself suddenly that you’ve gained weight, or you know, over the course of like a couple of months, you’ve gone up a size, it’s important to process the feelings around that because we’re likely going through some of that grief again, over what we’re losing. So maybe we’re losing, you know, the ease of getting dressed that we kind of like maybe you’ve kind of gotten to a place where things were starting to feel easier, and then your body changed, you might be sad about the fact that maybe you bought some clothes that you really like and now you can’t fit into them, you might be grieving the social currency that you had, you know, maybe it was your feeling more self conscious to do things now. So it’s important to process the feelings you have around this change. And often there’s a bit of grief that comes up around that, if we skip over this process, we often end up being stuck in that problem solving mode, you know, and that’s, that’s really what our brains like to do, our brains like to go into, let’s fix this, instead of let’s actually sit with the discomfort of this. And when we just continue to stay in that let’s fix it place, we will go around in circles right or will end up engaging in disordered behaviors again. So making space for the feelings that are coming up, is really critical. And coming to a place of acceptance that this change has happened. And trying to make peace with it is going to make this process so much easier, versus trying to fight it. And so just making space for that grief that’s coming up.

The other part of the grieving process, or this phase that I wanted to talk about is the importance of unpacking beliefs. We talked about this on last week’s episode 279 Body Image series when you fear weight game, I talked a lot about unpacking beliefs. We really want to understand what weight means to us and what it’s making us believe about ourselves because our body change isn’t just about our body change. It’s not just about like, the fact that these jeans don’t fit anymore, or your stomach looks different now. It’s really about what we believe that means about us. And so when we can draw that out, we’re in a much better position. then to be able to attend to ourselves to be able to comfort ourselves, and to be able to see like the deeper place where this is coming from. And to know that like changing our body is not the solution, because that’s not going to take away the beliefs, right? The beliefs are in there, regardless of our size, they’re just being activated when your body changes. So it’s actually an opportunity to kind of draw out some of those beliefs, do some work around that, and be able to strength in your own belief system, as well as challenge like any sort of anti fat beliefs that you have, which are beneficial to our culture as well, our body is never simply the problem. You know, it’s what we’ve made it to mean about us, which we’ve learned from our culture. And if we don’t do that work, we continue to think that fixing our body is the answer. And if we’re not doing work around those beliefs, then often our self worth kind of stays attached to our body size. And so this piece of it is, is really important as well, because body changes aren’t just about like the fact that your pants don’t fit. It’s like what that means to you. And that’s a very individual thing. And then the final component under the grieving process, is self compassion, right, because if we are grieving, if we are unpacking these beliefs, we have to be really compassionate with ourselves. And self compassion shows up in the way that we speak to ourselves as well as our actions. Learning to speak to yourself compassionately in a way that lands and feels authentic is a foundational piece of the work I do with clients. And it’s really like the counter voice to our inner critic, right. So if you are constantly criticizing yourself, if you are constantly beating yourself up, you need a counter voice to that you can’t just like, tell that other voice to go away, we need a counter voice that we have to strengthen, that’s going to be the one that we listen to the one that we lean on, and the one that’s going to guide us. And so that is where self compassion comes into play. It’s also critical, like if we’re hurting, to be compassionate with ourselves. And so for experience going through kind of that mourning process, we have to be compassionate with ourselves. And I think a lot of times we confuse self compassion with positive self talk. And they’re not the same thing. Compassion is about comforting ourselves. You know, sometimes that may look like a pep talk. But often it sounds much different. And if we don’t learn to speak and treat ourselves compassionately, we don’t have a counter voice to our inner critic. So our inner critic is likely going to dominate and it’s going to be much harder to make peace with body changes. So we have to be really intentional about this. One last thing I’ll mention around self compassion is that I said it can show up in our behaviors, too. And so if you think about like, Okay, well, what’s a compassionate way to respond to body changes, in my personal viewpoint, it would be wearing clothes that feel comfortable. So trying to squeeze yourself into clothes that are tight around your waist, like if things are digging in, that’s only going to increase emotional discomfort. And so I totally understand that it is like, it requires finances, it requires time, it requires access to get new clothes and to find clothes in your size. So I don’t want to say that this is like, Oh, just go get new clothes that fit. Like that’s a very hard thing. And even harder, depending on, you know, your proximity to privilege. So try your best with whatever you do have access to or can pull together. Recently, I’ve been experiencing some bloating, and so I’ve been walking around with my pants on done in my house. So that’s an option to the second phase is normalize.

So after we’ve really grieved, and it’s not really after, I shouldn’t say that, because I think these things can happen simultaneously. Because all of this is a reiterative process. But you know, we don’t just want to kind of stay stuck in the stuck feelings, right? We can do some other stuff to kind of move us forward and uplift along the way. And that’s where these where these other two phases come into play. So normalize is really about normalizing that body diversity is real, including your own. So the first thing I want to touch on here is just normalizing that body diversity is real. And hopefully you are all doing this work already. Because if maybe if you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, you’re probably already doing that. But if not, I just want to reiterate that it is so important to see bodies that look like yours, that are larger than yours that look different than yours, that have rules that have wrinkles that have cellulite that are not filtered, that have bellies that stick out, we need to look at different bodies. If you are only being exposed to bodies that look like the ideal or are smaller than yours, then your perspective of what is normal or desirable is going to be shaped by that. Meaning when you gain weight, you’re going to see your body as wrong because you’re moving further away from that kind of beauty standard and quotation works. So we have to expose ourselves to different bodies. And again, that has to be intentional because the majority of what we see in the media is the quote unquote, ideal body shape. And, you know, maybe like 5% of people actually have that body. So we need to look at diversity because we need to change the perspective with which we’re viewing ourselves. And the perspective that we perceive us like being quote, unquote, normal. By the way, I don’t even like that word, there’s no everything is normal. So diversity is normal. And so reducing the amount of time that you spend seeing bodies that kind of fit the ideal, quote, unquote, or bodies that just make you feel not great about yourself in favor of increasing the amount of time that you expose yourself to bodies that are, you know, like yours are different. And so that’s where creating your social media feed can be super, super important. And if we skip this step, where we don’t do it, then our perception of what a good body looks like, is going to be defined by our patriarchal racist ages, anti-fat standards, etc. Standards. And I still do this, I’ve been doing this work for, like years and years. And I still think it’s really important, because if we let it go, then the other stuff just creeps in, because it’s everywhere. So this has to be an ongoing process to the other piece of normalize is normalize how your own body looks. So when we are in our body, we kind of have this idea or blueprint in our mind of how our body looks. And that can often be based on something that may be outdated, like, not how our body actually looks anymore. So it might be based on like a size or shape that you no longer are. And what happens is, is then when we do see an actual picture of ourselves, or we do look in the mirror, we have this kind of like jarring and distressing experience, where you might see a picture of yourself and be like, Oh my God, that’s how I look. So that’s really common. I can see this all the time with people, like I saw. And I don’t mean to laugh. It’s not a funny thing. But I just mean, like, it’s so common. So somebody will say to me, like, Hey, I saw a picture of myself. And I just was like, I can’t believe this is how I look. And so it’s because like your brain is sort of expecting something that’s different than what then how you actually look. So we have to be intentional about updating that blueprint in our mind. So that when we do look at ourselves, it’s like, oh, yeah, no, that’s how I look. It’s not Oh, my God, that’s how I look. It’s like, yeah, okay, there I am. And go on with your day, you may not necessarily like how you look. But the initial goal when I’m working with people, is to be able to move to a place where we just have a more neutral emotional reaction. So it’s not activating the panic, or the shame or the distress. It’s just like, Okay, I don’t really like that picture myself. But there I am, because we know how our body looks. So normalizing how our body looks is really, really important. And so when our body changes, that becomes important too. Because we have to kind of update this blueprint in our mind, if we avoid our body, if we’re like, Well, I just don’t want to look in the mirror, I can’t handle it, or I don’t want to be in pictures, I can’t handle it, then it’s going to be quite distressing when we do see a picture, or we’re confronted with it, when we do see ourselves in a reflection, or when we go shopping in a mirror or something like that. The more we see ourselves, the more familiar we’re going to be with how we look. And it’s not going to be such a big deal. This is really, really important if your body has changed.

Now, I will say that huge caveat here, okay, if your emotional bandwidth is topped out, like we got a baby step into this, please don’t take this to mean that you should go and just like, you know, look at yourself naked in the mirror. That is never what I would do with somebody that has never would, I would advise, there are steps that I take with clients to baby step their way into this. And there is work we do before this, including the stuff we talked about in the grieving section to really set the foundation so that we can be careful and intentional about this because the last thing you want to do is have such uncomfortable feelings come up that you just go back to dieting or you’re just like you just shut yourself down. Okay, we don’t want to go into fight or flight. And so take this as normalizing how your body looks is important. And be really cautious how you purchase or get support with someone who knows what they’re doing to guide you through it. It may really make sense that we would want to just keep avoiding the mirror or keep avoiding pictures because we just don’t want to feel uncomfortable feelings, but avoiding them doesn’t really help them to go away. I’ve talked about this before and episode 243 It was part of the body image series. It’s called Mirror checking and mirror avoidance thinking got about a year ago to check that one out. For more on that, if you’re kind of like, Ooh, what’s this? What are you talking about? What do you mean like avoiding the mirror as bad, because the counter to it is mirror checking is also not good. So if you are listening to this, and you’re like, Oh, I still mirror check, meaning you like check your body in the mirror, or you check your reflection to see kind of like how big your stomach is, and definitely go revisit episode 243. But overall, what I want to say is just normalize is a really important part of navigating weight changes, because we want to get to a place where that changes, just like we’re familiar with it. And we’re able to come to a place of peace of acceptance with it. The last phase is connect. And this phase is really about seeing yourself as a whole human versus compartmentalizing yourself into body parts, our culture, beauty standards, they really make us value ourselves based on how we look, I see people judge their entire character based on like how their stomach looks, right. And I’m sure when you hear me say it, you’re like, yeah, that’s ridiculous. But we all do it, we’ve all we’ve all done it. And so connecting is really about seeing ourselves as whole, and connecting with our sense of self worth, so that we can build it up and know that it’s not based on how we look. And the more that we do that, the easier it is to be able to navigate weight changes. And so as a reminder, the way that I define self worth is it’s about knowing who you are, and knowing that who you are, is valuable and worthy. And so it’s a big job, right? It’s not just like, I’m just go sit down and make myself worth better. It’s a really ongoing an iterative process as well, when I do this with clients. And, you know, I think it’s just something that we’re never going to have like perfect self worth, we’re always going to have parts of us that are more sensitive to things, I certainly still do. But the more that we can detach it from our body, the easier it becomes to just navigate any kind of body changes. And so the Connecting is really about connecting with who you are. This is about knowing who you are, knowing what qualities you offer this world, knowing what your values are, knowing what your purpose is. And using those to guide your decisions, it’s kind of looks like identity work, like our body can often be our identity. And therefore when we gain weight, it can feel like we’re losing our identity, this can happen to just a few if you were sort of always identified as like, the fit one or the like health conscious one, you know, like I totally had that identity. And so, you know, when I started to move away from that, it really felt like a loss of identity. I mean, my whole identity was based around trying to make my body smaller. So when I didn’t have that anymore, it was like who am I and so doing this identity work. And really strengthening our sense of self worth is key to accepting ourselves as a whole and accepting body changes, when we have a solid understanding of who we are, and what really brings us fulfillment. In life, it’s much easier to see ourselves as more than a body, it’s easier to reject dieting and the diet mentality when we have a clear blueprint of like, what we actually want for ourselves in this life and what we offer this world. So instead of looking to our body to validate whether or not we’re okay, we can just validate our intrinsic worth, like we just know, we’re good enough as is regardless of what size our body is, or how our body looks. Sounds like a nice place to be right. So instead of looking at our body to dictate our happiness, or really looking at, okay, now what do I what actually brings me fulfillment, you know, what actually brings me a sense of purpose, and aligning ourselves with those instead. And so when we don’t have that, we continue to see our body size as our worth and as our identity, or we just struggle with, like not knowing what our worth is, and not knowing what our identity is, the last part of Connect is about connecting with what’s more important to you. So what’s more important than losing weight, you know, what’s, what’s bigger than that for you, we’ve been conditioned to measure our worth, based on our body size and appearance. And a smaller body can sometimes feel like the most important thing to achieve, you know, or maintaining the body that you have can feel like the most important thing to achieve. And so really connecting with and exploring what’s more important than a smaller body can help to keep us on this path when we feel shaken, like in moments when our body has changed.

So again, grieve, normalize, connect. And I’ve really kind of boiled these down into very simple points. This is much more in depth work, but hopefully you can take away something from this to help you on your journey. And this is the work I do with plants every day. This is all the stuff I cover in my you ON FIRE program. And I do find that it’s quite an individual process and everyone moves through it differently. When I’m working with people, all of these things are personalized to meet them where they’re at. So if you’re hearing this and you’re wanting more support, check out you on fire. It’s my online group coaching program. It’s a blend of personalized coaching from me in a group setting, as well as some module work that you do in your own time. And it really just gives you a step by step way of of building up your sense of self worth, beyond your appearance. So that you can greatly reduce body shame, move to a place of acceptance, know you’re good enough as is and be able to handle moments where your body changes. We cover all these different facets that we touched on today. You don’t need to live your life in with this battle. Sometimes I think we just kind of settle for with it. Like we’re like, well, it’s not that bad. But things could probably be a lot better, right? Like if you had all that time and energy back instead of constantly criticizing yourself and your body moving to a place of acceptance really gives you so much time and energy and freedom back. So check out summer forward slash you on fire. If you can’t remember how to spell that just go to the body image There’s a button there that says work with me and you’ll see all the details about you on fire there. All right, hope you found this episode helpful. Again, I feel like it was another meaty one. So maybe listen to it again. If you find that helpful. You can find all the links and resources mentioned at summer forward slash 280 Thank you so much for being here today. I’ve got another body image series coming for you next time 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.

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