Obesophobia: Fear of Weight Gain Defined
If you struggle with the fear of weight gain, this post is for you. You are not alone. So many of us have been conditioned to believe that gaining weight is one of the worst things that can happen to us throughout our lives. But is this a rational fear?
When you think of traditional celebrations and events, like the holidays, rather than experiencing joy and pleasant nostalgia, you may feel intense fear and anxiety. This has been defined as obesophobia, a diagnosable anxiety disorder that is growing in prevalence among teens and women (1).
Obesophobia and eating disorders like anorexia nervosa are related, but not the same. Obesophobia is specifically the fear of weight gain or becoming overweight. This can impact eating behaviors and lead to disordered eating patterns. Eating disorders, on the other hand, are severe disturbances in eating behaviors that require intensive medical and psychological interventions (2).
If you are concerned that you are suffering from an eating disorder as a result of obesophobia, please consider seeking FREE help and support here. If you know that fear of weight gain is troubling you and making it hard to experience joy and community during one of the most WONDERFUL times of the year, keep reading my friend!
The Lies of Diet Culture: Holiday Woes
Alright, let’s talk about one of the main reasons why you’re struggling with fear of weight gain in the first place: diet culture. If you’ve been reading the Joyfully Nourished Life blog for a while, you’ll know that this is a central topic throughout my content. You can read more about this here!
So what exactly does diet culture say about the holidays that is so triggering for so many of us? Here are a few popular headlines that may sound all too familiar:
- “The Skinny on Holiday Dieting”
- “12 Tips for Sticking to Your Diet During the Holidays”
- “How to Clean Up Your Diet After the Holidays, According to Nutritionists”
Basically, diet culture says “if you’re not dieting during the holidays, you’re getting fat.” And even though some of these articles are written by qualified nutrition professionals like myself, they all have one thing in common: they glorify dieting, restrictive eating, and the pursuit of thinness.
All 3 of these things are a recipe for an unhappy, unhealthy relationship with food and your body.
During a time of year when you should be celebrating and making memories with those you love while enjoying the pleasures of eating a variety of traditional foods, you’re stuck stressing about whether or not you can stick to your diet. You’re stuck thinking “I must control myself…I can’t afford to gain any more weight this time.”
Y’all, I know how this feels, and it is NOT joyful or healthy! Diet culture is lying to you; it is making you think that the only way to be “good” during the holidays is to eat in a restrictive, rigid way to maintain or lose weight.
There is a better way. And I want to help you discover what it feels like to navigate the holidays WITHOUT the fear of weight gain constantly looming over you!
5 Tips for Eating Intuitively During the Holidays
Here’s a message you won’t hear from diet culture: your worth isn’t found in how well you stick to a diet or how much weight you gain or lose during the holidays. Your worth is found in the One who created you and sent His only begotten Son to die for you. Period.
You can walk into this holiday season with your head held high as you look to the One who is your Helper and your Strength (Psalm 121:1-2). He is the “reason for the season,” and He gives you the freedom to see yourself as he sees you: fearfully and wonderfully made, no matter what.
Now that we’ve uncovered the TRUTH, let’s figure out how to EMBRACE that truth by learning to eat intuitively during the holiday season.
1. Pray and surrender your fear of weight gain to the Lord.
This is where the rubber meets the road. Your fear of weight gain will continue to plague your heart and mind until you give it to the One who can conquer all your fears. You are not meant to live your life in constant fear and dread; claim your victory over this fear, in Jesus’s Name!
2. Say NO to dieting during the holidays.
With Intuitive Eating, the first principle is to “Reject the Diet Mentality.” You won’t be able to experience freedom from the lies of diet culture until you renounce its control over you. The holidays are a time for being with those you love and making memories, NOT piddling over every little calorie you burn and consume!
Get rid of any dieting tools (calorie/macro tracking apps, bathroom scale, weight loss programs, portion containers, etc.) that drive you to focus on food rules and restrictive eating. This can be a hard step and one that requires accountability from a trusted, anti-dieting friend.
If you don’t have someone like this in your life, I’d love to be a virtual accountability partner for you! You can email me at email@example.com or send me a DM here.
3. Use The Hunger Scale to learn your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues.
If you haven’t read my blog post on The Hunger Scale, this tool will be life-changing for you! Honoring your hunger and feeling your fullness can make all the difference in how you navigate gatherings where holiday foods, drinks, snacks, sweets, and meals will be involved.
You might be wondering, “How do I handle the pressure to eat when I’m not hungry or full? Or when it’s a food that still feels forbidden?” Well, there’s support for this too! You have the power to choose whether or not you eat in every situation like this, regardless of how heavy the pressure might feel.
Consider practical, emotional, and taste hunger at these times and choose from there. There are no good or bad foods, and you are not good or bad for what you choose to eat. You can do it, friend, I believe in you! Check out the scale at the link above or head to the JNL Resources page.
4. Incorporate Gentle Nutrition and Intuitive Exercise whenever you can.
So if you’re not dieting, how do prioritize a healthy lifestyle during the holidays? Gentle Nutrition and Intuitive Exercise are how! Your body thrives on adequate nutrition and regular, gentle movement all year long.
Imagine yourself at your next holiday gathering, standing in front of all the foods available to you. Your hunger is at about a 4 out of 10, so you are in a gentle, comfortable state of hunger.
Take a deep breath and think: “What foods will give me the right combination of nourishment, comfort and pleasure I desire right now?” Chances are you’ll pick some combination of the following: carbs, proteins, fats, and fiber. This is gentle nutrition. And if you don’t, that’s okay too! No strings attached, no food rules, no harm, no foul.
And since nutrition and movement work together to support your authentic health, exercising intuitively during the holidays will also calm your fears of weight gain. What seasonal activities do you enjoy the most? Hiking? Skiing? Flag football? Running?
Whatever it is, if it helps relieve stress, gives you energy, feels good physically and mentally, and allows you to prioritize rest and recovery, it’s A-okay! Remember, exercise is NOT meant to be a punishment for what you eat, nor do you have to “earn” what you eat by exercising. It is simply a part of living well and maintaining balance.
5. Focus on seeking joyful experiences (that don’t always involve food).
With as much emphasis as our society places on food during the holidays, this isn’t what it’s all about! You don’t have to make everything you do center around food and eating. Figure out ways to make joyful memories without focusing on food.
One way I did this with my family last year was to play a few fun, simple Christmas games. For example, I had each family member try to guess how many Nativity scenes we had around the house. The one who got the closest without going over won a prize as an extra Christmas gift. This was perfect because we have collected a TON of Nativities down through the years!
What family traditions, activities, or games will help take your mind off of food and eating? You’ll be surprised to see how well this works!
You Can Overcome Your Fear of Weight Gain During the Holidays
My hope is that this post is just what you needed to enter the holiday season with the confidence and tools you need to overcome your fear of weight gain. I know the struggle all too well, and I can testify that these tips have helped me so much in the last few years.
What is one takeaway that you plan to try this holiday season? Share below or send me a message. I’d love to connect with you and support you along your Joyfully Nourished Life journey!
Much love, my friends! <3
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Much love, friends!