Polona Fonda asks: What drives me, and millions of other women, to see our bodies as our enemies?
You are reading the second chapter of our conversation on the issues of body hate and disordered eating.
4. People are quick to judge; whenever they see an obese person they immediately label them as lazy. But that’s not really the case because…
It’s very important to recognise that obese people are struggling, but the label of ‘lazy’ just clouds the issues they are facing.
When I work with overweight clients, I invariably find that they have been able to stick to incredibly rigid and restrictive diets,demonstrating a huge amount of willpower for periods of time.
But this always backfires, the weight comes back (plus some), leaving the individual feeling like a failure. Obese people who have been through this cycle have sometimes called themselves lazy for not sticking with the super strict diet that led to failure in the first place. The reality of excess weight is more complex and requires more than a diet plan or an exercise program.
Usually these are too strict, unrealistic and punishing to stick with forever. And that’s what we need to look for in a weight loss plan – something you can stick with for life.
Starvation and hours of exercise are just not feasible in the long term and will lead to overeating because of simple hunger. Traditional diet also encourage certain beliefs that actually create fat traps, such as the idea of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods.
These kinds of all-or-nothing beliefs only make it more likely that a small nutrition blips turn into monumental diet failures because there is no degree of flexibility or problem solving skills involved in food choices.
5. Women, depression and obesity (or disordered eating): from personal experience I can tell you all three factors go together very well.
Absolutely, there is a link. Which is one of the big reasons dieting doesn’t work.
Other than not usually being a change that we can stick with for a lifetime, they don’t address the underlying reasons food is being used in a way that causes excess weight. Depression is often part of bigger cycles – a cause and an effect of issues.
So difficulties in life may cause a person to turn to food, but also the effects of overeating make people feel depressed. It might not always be possible, or important to try to figure out which came first, but to recognise that getting to a healthy weight means making healthy changes in all other areas of your life – not just nutritionally, but also socially, psychologically, and behaviourally in places like work or with families, friends and partners.
These healthy changes usually will also have a positive effect on mood.
6. When going through the magazines you find tips for weight loss “eat this, don’t eat that, move a lot, etc.” But weight loss is not just physical; it looks like it is more mental.
Tips on how to eat can be useful, but I would agree that long term weight loss is about adjusting your approach to life.
Often education about food is useful because obesity can be related to a simple lack of knowledge about food. But there is no magic formula, and knowing about food doesn’t help us to understand the decision making processes we have when we go off the plan.
It’s understanding what went wrong that will help making different, healthier choices in future. Additionally, the idea that some food is ‘good’ and other food is ‘bad’ is unhelpful to long term weight loss.
The more useful perspective is understanding what drives our food choices and being self aware and compassionate enough to decide what we need, not just what we want.
7. Sustainable weight loss is not about changing our nutrition, but learning how to cope with anxiety, depression, mood swing… ? How not to numb our feelings with food?
Mood management and making alternative choices is part of a sustainable weight loss plan, but it’s also about developing nutritional knowledge, new habits around cooking, eating and shopping.
It’s also about working towards psychological skills in problem solving, naming and communicating your needs with others, and gaining awareness into the thoughts and feelings behind your decision making. And discovering and confronting self limiting beliefs and sabotaging food rules that lead to failure.
8. What are some of the most common issues you see when working with women who are looking to lose weight for good?
One of the most common issues that might come as a surprise is the lack of supportive relationships.
Clients can be surrounded by people – family and friends – but usually struggle to find ways to feel truly understood, cared for and supported.
This is essential for weight loss because as we lose food as a form of coping with problems, we have to replace it with healthier alternatives, like good relationships.
Working on effective communication, dealing with resentment and facing fears of rejection are all common issues that come up.
Chapter 1: WOMEN AT WAR: ME AGAINST MY BODY
Chapters 3 is coming up next week.