The fear of weight gain can feel all-consuming if you suffer from disordered eating or body image issues. It can feel like everything in your life is second to that fear, making maintaining your current weight (or even losing weight) feel like your top priority—even over your overall health and happiness, no matter the cost.
As a therapist specializing in binge eating, I have spent years helping people overcome the fear of weight gain.
One of the most important things to note before diving in? You don’t have to gain weight to overcome the fear of weight gain. Just like you don’t have to survive a plane crash to overcome the fear of flying, gaining weight is NOT a prerequisite to overcoming that all-consuming fear of weight gain. This is often one of the most hindering factors keeping people from overcoming their fear!
The Truth About Weight Gain
While gaining weight could be an instrumental part of getting yourself healthy, depending on your doctor’s advice, every situation is unique—and it’s therefore important to consult a doctor when determining if gaining weight is something you should do for your health.
One more thing to note—you aren’t afraid of gaining weight. You are afraid of what you have defined the weight to mean! If you have spent months or even years telling yourself that your weight is tied to your worth, it’s natural that, now, you would be afraid of gaining weight—because you believe that, if you do, you will somehow be less of an amazing person.
Newsflash: Your worth is not tied to your weight. Once you accept this—truly accept it—you will find that the fear of weight gain has minimal power over you.
Today, I’m breaking down three instrumental steps to overcoming the fear of weight gain—and to helping you find food freedom.
1. Identify the source of the fear.
It’s likely that, at some point in your life, you decided that gaining weight (even healthy weight!) was something to be afraid of for one reason or another. A hallmark of many eating disorders (including anorexia) is the fear of gaining weight, even if doing so would make you a healthier and happier person overall.
To overcome the fear of weight gain, it’s important to identify its source.
What are you afraid will happen if you gain weight?
Do you feel your worth would somehow change, or maybe others would perceive you differently? Do you feel that gaining weight would indicate failure or a lack of self-control?
Exploring the root of this fear is essential to tackle it head-on, and exercises like journaling or talking to a trusted friend or therapist can help you determine what is causing you to feel this way.
2. Challenge the fear.
The rational part of your brain may know that gaining weight would NOT make you any less loved by the important people in your life. It may even know that gaining weight would benefit your overall health, for example, if you are underweight.
However, the part of your brain consumed by the fear of weight gain may push back—hard—on this knowledge and make it incredibly difficult to challenge the fear.
For this reason, challenging the fear involves remembering times when you have overcome other uncomfortable feelings.
If you are afraid of being judged for weight gain, think about another time you were judged for something—and overcame it. Think about how it felt to overcome the judgment. Think about how it would be just as applicable to this situation.
If you feel that weight gain would be a “failure” (even though weight gain is NOT a failure!), think about another time you failed at something and, you guessed it—overcame it and moved on. How did that feel? How did that prepare you for future hardships?
Remembering instances of your strength will help you prepare to face any of the feelings that come with addressing your fear.
3. Think about what you can gain from letting go of the fear.
If your fear of weight gain is all-consuming, you are likely terrified and exhausted—and you may even feel trapped in a vicious cycle.
To overcome the fear of weight gain, you must want to overcome it–and doing so involves knowing what you can gain from not letting the fear control you any longer.
Ask yourself this:
What has a fear of weight gain taken from you? Has it taken your peace? Your freedom? Your ability to enjoy yourself at dinner with your friends? What if you could regain these things by letting go of the fear?
What else in your life might change if you let go of the fear of weight gain? Would you gain self-compassion? Confidence in yourself as a person? The freedom to enjoy food without overthinking later?
Envisioning yourself as free of this fear—and all the great things that would accompany that—can be instrumental in helping yourself to overcome it.
As long as you live in fear of weight gain, you give that fear power over you. The more you try to restrict or control yourself to avoid gaining weight, the more out of control you will feel!
For this reason, finding food freedom involves letting go of your fears and, to a certain extent, giving up the desire for control. Unfortunately, in this life, we can’t control everything—and the struggle to do so can leave us feeling exhausted, defeated, and hopeless. The fear of gaining weight is no different.
If you are currently struggling with the fear of weight gain and seeking help overcoming it, I encourage you to check out my services here. I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor, and Certified Nutritionist who wants to help YOU find food freedom and enjoy all the amazing things doing so brings!
Keywords: weight gain, fear of weight gain, overcoming the fear of weight gain