What are some common feats associated with losing weight?

Katie Rickel, PhD
For the vast majority of those wanting to lose weight, a “knowledge deficit” is not the culprit for failed attempts. Instead, there is an underlying fear that can stall even the most well-crafted eating and exercise program, and these fears create subconscious motives to continue engaging in unhealthy behaviors. These are the fears that are most common:

Fear of Heightened Expectations:
Sadly, many overweight individuals manage to convince themselves (and convince people around them) that their weight “disqualifies” them from pursuing certain goals. They may hesitate to advance their careers, to seek out romantic relationships, or to engage in physically demanding activities. Folks may lack the confidence that they could be successful in these endeavors. Thus, losing their excess weight creates a sense of fear and hesitancy and becomes a justification for not even trying.

Fear of Attractiveness:
Although cultural ideals about body types are constantly shifting, our society today tends to equate a trim figure with sexuality. Obese individuals may be viewed as lacking in sexual appeal, and this prejudice may actually be adaptive for overweight people who would rather not be viewed as sexual beings. Thus, there is often significant anxiety around losing weight and subsequently attracting more sexual attention. People may lack confidence that they could successfully ward off unwanted advances.

Fear of Losing One’s Identity:
When one’s identity has been shaped by having a literally large presence, the prospect of becoming smaller through weight loss can feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Similarly, when an individual’s social environment centers around overeating, there is potential for a great loss if more moderate and structured eating behaviors are adopted.

For some, the desire to lose weight is simple and uncomplicated. For others, losing weight carries inherent risk -- risks some might not be willing to take. However, oftentimes, the perception of these risks is simply a lack of confidence. The work lies in disentangling the role weight actually plays from the power that we so easily give it.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.