What if your weight gain or weight loss has nothing to do with what you do eat, don’t eat, want to eat, can eat, can’t eat? Or, has everything to do with those things? But these reasons have nothing to do with intent or choice.
What if there are many reasons outside of the food and eating discussion that is impacting on your weight?
The weight loss and body weight dialogue is often painted in terms of morality and choice, and in a sense, an assumption of control.
A discussion that is often relegated to the sidelines are the many genuine reasons that are beyond our control or choice.
I feel the people I am talking about are often voiceless and powerless to articulate their difficulties in the mainstream “weight loss” world as they either are shamed and or hushed, by being told they are just not trying hard enough or they are making excuses for their weight gains or losses.
I am here to advocate for those people for whom their weight gain and loss has little to do with intention, intelligence, capability or will power.
There are many illnesses that cause weight gain or weight loss and no amount of dieting or eating makes too much difference. Now that is not to say it makes no difference and sometimes those differences may be immense in terms of well being and nourishment but they may not reflect in actual body weight. There are also many medications that cause unwanted weight gain or unwanted weight loss, but not taking these medications causes other serious complications. Take for example antipsychotic medication prescribed for schizophrenia or serious depression. These drugs play a very important role in keeping people safe and sometimes are the difference between life and death, but they do cause a lot of weight gain that’s beyond that person’s control.
For many women approaching mid life who are suffering terrible discomfort, the only way to function may be to go onto HRT, however due to hormonal changes weight gain may be a consequence. There are injuries from minor strains and sprains to serious breaks or pain due to arthritis that can make exercise really challenging. There are illnesses like cancer where treatment can leave a person on medication that affects appetite and exercise options. Or they are so sick during treatment and pain they cannot eat or move. There are metabolic syndromes such as PCOS that make even the fittest and “health” conscious person struggle to manage their weight. There are thyroid problems and serious eating disorders, and the list goes on and on.
I would like to scream and shout from the rooftops to all the people who make moral assumptions about other people weight, to think carefully before making comments, in fact its best not to comment at all. To use the phrase “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” I would say “walk many miles in someone else’s mind and body” before assuming anything about them, their body, their weight, or their life. Best to keep all judgment reserved for things like TV shows or holiday destinations not other peoples life as you just never know what they are trying to cope with let alone the hurtful comments and assumptions other people are making about their weight.
Ginette Lenham is a counsellor/psychotherapist and coach specialising in complex weight related issues especially when an illness may be the cause of excess weight gain or weight loss or when weight gain or loss has caused illness. She also teaches a weight management course called the “Science and Sustainability of Weight loss’ and teaches counselling and communication skills to students studying nutrition.