There is a lot of fear around weight gain.

by Elizabeth on August 26, 2013

I hope you had a great weekend! As I promised on Friday, I have a few more serious items to share with you this morning (in case the title wasn’t a dead giveaway.. ha.) But first, I know so many people are going back to school today and I want to tell you I’m praying you have a wonderful year :-)

There is a a lot of fear around weight gain, and understandably so. This doesn’t apply exclusively to people with eating disorders. Everything you read is about how to be “10 pounds lighter,” or, “eating cleaner,” and, “how to get the most of your workout.” No wonder there is a HUGE fear and stigma even around gaining weight. 

As hard as it is for me to admit it, I will be 100% honest and tell you I’m kind of still there. In therapy last Thursday, we started to dissect this a little further. What are my specific fears around totally letting go and gaining a few more pounds? I was told to write down every fear I’ve ever had around weight gain. So here they are for God, you, and everyone else to see. Some are old and less true now, some are still just as true. With a few more pounds I fear…

  1. I will be anxious and uncomfortable all the time.
  2. Rejection from others.
  3. Feeling my body (whether that’s thighs rubbing or clothes getting more snug.)
  4. Fear of continual weight gain, loss of control.
  5. Awareness of “extra” fat.
  6. Seeing myself as a failure.
  7. Seeing less muscles (and even bone at my sickest) definition.

The assignment given to me was to take all of my fears, and write out what would happen if they came true. How would I deal with it and is there a possibility life could still be ok?

  1. I will be anxious all the time. What if I was constantly anxious for a while in the weight gaining process? No one likes to feel anxious. When I do feel anxious , usually I first try to understand where the anxiety is coming from and if it’s something I need to pay attention to. Am I anxious because I’m home alone and I hear weird noises at night? That’s some valid anxiety. Am I anxious because my clothes are fitting tighter? Hmmm? how important is that in the grand scheme of things? Being anxious also gives me opportunities to practice self soothing. Maybe I need to spend some time in prayer and give it up to God. Maybe I need a bath or a walk or a good chat with a friend. Learning how to self soothe in non-eating disordered ways is vital for recovery. So being anxious for a period of time could help me practice becoming more skillful with that emotion instead of trying to suppress it.
  2. Rejection from others. I think that most people who start a diet or desire lose weight crave acceptance from others. Whether that’s through compliments or having people treat them differently, some part of them feels rejected at their current state. And sadly, in our culture, weight loss often is met with excitement and congratulations. Weight gain on the other hand, is viewed in a negative light. For example, I’m sure we’ve all heard conversations along the lines of, “Did you see how much weight she’s gained?” or, “They really let them self go lately.” You can see why weight loss is tempting and weight gain is scary. No one wants to feel rejected. The irony comes in to play when someone loses too much weight or takes it too far. They’re craving acceptance and love but they create isolation and rejection. So in reality, a way for someone to feel the highest degree of acceptance and connectedness is to maintain a healthy weight.
  3. Feeling my body (whether that’s thighs rubbing or clothes getting more snug.) In most eating disorders, you become completely detached from your body. Going through a recovery process allows (and requires) you to reconnect with it. The body has so much wisdom to offer! By feeling it I’m able to be in tune with little signs that something might not be right and I need to get it checked out early on. I can feel my weight, feel like I have substance, and a backbone.
  4. Fear of continual weight gain, loss of control. I think this is a really common worry and it almost never happens. If I think about my past experiences, when I was in inpatient treatment I was on a HUGE meal plan. I probably ate more in a day there than I ate in a week before going. There was this constant fear that I was going to become extremely overweight but you know what? It didn’t happen. In fact, I came home and I really didn’t look that different (obviously I looked a little different but not nearly what I feared in my head.)
  5. Awareness of “extra” fat. Gaining weight will bring an awareness of extra fat. There’s no way around it. What needs to shift is my relationship with fat. Somewhere along the way my view of fat was heavily (no pun intended) distorded when it’s actually just another necessary body component like muscle and bone. Fat has very specific functions such as: providing energy, absorbing fat soluble vitamins, and maintaining core temperature. 
  6. Seeing myself as a failure. Who’s to say what failure is anyway? When I’m able to look at everything as an opportunity for learning and growth there is no failure. Weight gain is actually a SUCCESS if you happen to be underweight. 
  7. Seeing less muscles (and even bone at my sickest) definition. I mean yeah, it’s going to happen. Oh well. At the end of the day what really matters? Do my husband and son really value the amount of muscle I have. Not really. I know they SURELY don’t want to feel bones. Noah wants me to hold him and be able to snuggle comfortably (well, once that happened anyway? he’s not a cuddler). Bones are not attractive to men. So if I’m honest with myself, this is actually a good thing and signs of progress.
So this is my completed assignment. I am working on getting to a slightly healthier place weight wise. Stay tuned for the other part of my plan to be able to make it :-) I’ll be sharing it with you tomorrow. And have a great day!
 
So tell me, do you have any fears around weight gain? If you’ve experienced this in the past, what helped you overcome the fears?

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 kait August 26, 2013 at 5:50 am

I appreciate such an honest, raw post, it means a lot! I feel like my fears around weight gain are constantly shifting – from how I will look in a bathing suit, to extra weight slowing me down on on my runs. I know these are all silly, and try really hard not to weigh myself too often so that I don’t dwell on it.

Happy Monday!

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2 jenn @ runnderlust August 26, 2013 at 5:56 am

Although so many people are afraid of gaining weight and have some sort of disordered eating in a way, I think any competitive athlete, particular runners, are afraid of gaining weight because of the chance that it may affect their performance. Weight gain can have a direct effect on that so not only are you fighting your internal battles (anxiety, seeing self as failure, control) there is an external or objective influence that other people may be more readily able to see. I know when I was running in HS and college I was so aware of my weight on any given day. If I weighed more than usual on race day, that race was already lost because I would already feel bad about myself.
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3 Amy August 26, 2013 at 6:34 am

I think I relate most to the fear of losing self control. I am always afraid that if I start eating certain things I won’t be able to stop, but I don’t think that is true. It is hard not to worry about the opinions of others, but it is important to remember that it is just their opinion. Many times they are just self conscious themselves. Stay strong!
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4 HilJo August 26, 2013 at 6:46 am

Id say all those fears ring true with what I experienced–and like what Jenn said, fear that I would get slower at running (which the opposite actually happened. Once I was healthy, I got a LOT faster). One thing that helped me overcome my fears was buying new clothes that fit well on my new body. I looked great and did not feel uncomfortable.

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5 Jojo @ RunFastEatLots August 26, 2013 at 6:53 am

I feared, and still sometimes fear, weight gain. I have struggled with disordered eating and was at my lowest weight in my sophomore year. I have gained about 15 lbs since then, and am learning to accept and love my body. Running has definitely helped with that, since it helps me to appreciate my body for what it can do. Now, I avoid weighing myself and just learn to feel comfortable in my own skin, no matter what the number on the scale says.
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6 Amanda @ .running with spoons. August 26, 2013 at 7:51 am

I love your honesty in this post, Elizabeth. The feeling and awareness of the added weight was definitely something I struggled with for a long time. After being nothing but skin and bones for so long, anything remotely closer to healthy was hard to ignore. But something I found that helped was doing my best to focus on the positive aspects of recovery. The freedom, the happiness, the energy… those things were worth way more than being sickly skinny.
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7 Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries August 26, 2013 at 8:34 am

This is awesome girl. I love how vulnerable this post was! I’m sure it helps a TON of others who are feeling the same way. xoxo
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8 Amy @ Run Mom Run August 26, 2013 at 8:52 am

I love how brave and open you are about things related to your eating disorder. I think it’s such a sign of healing when someone is ready to talk about it.

I hate when I loose muscle definition. After two kids my stomach will probably never be where it was before, and I would be lying if I said that didn’t bother me big time. But then I see my cute boys and I adore them so much I will just have to swallow my pride and not have a tight six pack.
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9 Lisa August 26, 2013 at 8:54 am

Really great post. I really appreciate the honesty you shared within this. I think a lot of us can relate to that. Especially for those of us that struggled with eating disorders.
I struggled for such a long time with the added weight and it was super tough emotionally.
It almost felt harder to recover when I gained weight because I felt that since I didn’t “look sick” I wasn’t sick.
However, after focusing on all the good that recovery brought, it’s SO worth it in the end.
There’s so much more to life than being thin and I didn’t want to risk losing so much just to be “skinny”.
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10 Alyssa @ See This Girl Run August 26, 2013 at 9:03 am

I don’t think I really ever feared weight gain until after my first semester of college when I realized I had gain a lot of weight for such a short time and then gained a little more throughout college. Then when I have had a hard time losing it, gaining is a fear because I’ve had to work so hard for such little progress. I just don’t want to lose all my hard work. But I definitely share some of your fears.
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11 Rachel @ Undercover Diva: A Sitcom August 26, 2013 at 9:03 am

I fear the failure, too. I lost a lot of weight (healthily), but if I gain a couple of pounds, I feel like I’ve let down the people who I have inspired to embark on a healthy lifestyle. My friends often refer to me as “small” or “tiny”, so when I gain a couple pounds, I feel ashamed and like I can’t live up to their expectations of me. I know it’s silly and it’s usually just a fleeting thought, but the thoughts are still there.
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12 misszippy August 26, 2013 at 9:04 am

I will totally own this–I am happy with my body right now and yet worry I will be putting on a few pounds if I’m not careful. I’ve never had an ED, but it’s just something I live with–after lots of hard work to get my body where i want it, I don’t want to backslide. I can only imagine being in the shoes of someone with an ED.
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13 Jamie @ fitfortherun August 26, 2013 at 10:32 am

I definitely have fears of weight gain. As much as I try to deny it, I think about my weight every single day. Not so much the number ( I used to be obsessed with weighing myself, and am so much less stressed about it now that I rarely every weigh myself) but more so with the way my clothes fit. When I feel my pants getting a little bit tighter, I get really irritable. I hate sitting at my desk all day with snug pants on. I’m starting to let go of my desire to be super thin and really starting to just embrace my curves. I always complain about my hips and thighs, but I’m starting to realize that those are what make me a woman and I should be proud of them! As long as I am healthy that’s all that matters
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14 char eats greens August 26, 2013 at 1:04 pm

I think the feeling your body is a big one. I would hate if my thighs were rubbing together; especially if they hadn’t in the past. I never had an eating disorder, but I definitely had disordered thoughts about myself. I’m much better now. I think, for me, key was going vegan and also keeping up the mile in running. I think it ultimately comes down to running though. My hip flexor isn’t the greatest right now so I’m not running a lot and I feel more crumby, vs. when I run, I feel great! I want to teach my daughter to love herself no matter what which is why I vow to NEVER make negative comments about myself (or anyone!) in front of her!
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15 court! August 26, 2013 at 1:19 pm

hoorah! loved reading this. thank you <3

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16 Andrea R. @ Morning Runner Girl August 26, 2013 at 1:28 pm

This is exactly where I am in my treatment right now. I have been gaining weight and everyone is getting excited and happy… and sometimes I can feel that excitement… but actually I feel so so anxious and scared and uncomfortable. I am definitely afraid of “feeling” the fat on my body. When I sit and feel more rolls, or thighs get closer to rubbing, or sititng on a chair and my legs are thicker on the seat… And of course, I am MOST concerned that I will never stop gaining weight and spiral out of control. i am afraid people will look at me differently. I am afraid people will see it as faililng, since it is so easy for people to gain weight but the true test in our society is whether or not you can “lose” weight.

This has helped me so so so much… addressing these questions and concerns… You are beautiful and wonderful1 Thank you for your help!!
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17 Amy @ Long Drive Journey August 26, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Thanks for such an honest post. I think the fear of failure is SUCH a big thing. Sometimes I find myself being paralyzed by it. But I think you’re really brave for verbalizing all of this and admitting it and getting it out.
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18 Debbie @ DebRuns August 26, 2013 at 3:30 pm

I love your honest posts, and I’m sure you help far more people than you realize. I am always very conscience of gaining weight that’s noticeable (small fluctuations are normal) because I’m a trainer and I think people might place higher expectations on me. Example: If that trainer doesn’t “look like magazines think she should look” then she must not be very good and I shouldn’t hire her…
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19 Liz @ The Girl on Fire Now August 26, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Thank you for sharing this and being so honest! A lot of those fears were things that I have struggled with too – and I love your thought process as you write out worst case scenarios.
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20 Alison @ Daily Moves and Grooves August 26, 2013 at 4:36 pm

I’ve definitely experienced these fears before and sometimes think about them now still. I’ve realized that physical looks are only a part of the whole person God has created me to be. And that nothing lasts forever. I’ve also realized that, hello, I’m a woman! We need some fat to carry out things like pregnancy and our cycle. It’s important.
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21 Brittnee August 26, 2013 at 8:24 pm

I’m new to your blog and I’m loving all of your posts. I’m dealing with a hip flexor injury that’s sidelined my running and really all cardio. Mentally I’m struggling with the fear of gaining weight, losing fitness, etc. Its been a struggle to lose control of my normal routine. Thank you for posting this!

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22 kendra @ http://www.kennygump.com/ August 26, 2013 at 9:09 pm

i have all those same fears as you. every single one. and i probably will for the rest of my life. but i love how you said at the end of the day your son and husband don’t really care how much muscle you have. and at the end of really long days, i don’t care either. but it’s like as soon as i reset and wake up the next morning, there is a renewed fear. i’ve seen family members struggle with weight. like large amounts of weight and it scares me and makes me sad to think of all they miss out on because of their weight. i know i’ll never be in that boat, but i still fear little gains. this is what makes us human though. these struggles and fears. and i’d like to think there is a humility in recognizing that i am not perfect.
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23 Ella December 3, 2013 at 3:30 pm

I am also a recovering anorexic, & reading his old blog post reminds me of how happy I am to be in this stage. Sure gaining weight, especially weight really fast & basically all odd-looking weight is scary. Some ppl are rude about it, commenting how “fat” your getting and for you to “eat healthier” or “stop eating”. They have no idea that not too long ago eating a piece of fruit was a struggle. From the point of view of an anorexic, gaining weight is a much needed and, practically, going to happen event. However it will pass, eventually. It’s scary, and it sucks, but one day it will be okay.

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