Sally thought the shame and embarrassment she felt about her weight would never let her go to Hawaii or enjoy the oceanside sun and surf.
But then things changed…
The Grip of Shame
It is not unusual for those carrying extra pounds to carry something that feels even heavier than the weight they want to lose.
This something is not visible, yet it takes up more space than anything or anyone else in the room. It can be suffocating. And it can hold us back, even from simple joys.
What is this monstrous beast?
It’s shame. Shame about weight and all the nasty emotions and self-critical thoughts that come with it.
I call it weight-related shame.
As a medical weight loss specialist, I see the paralyzing effects of weight-related shame every day. I see how people define themselves by their weight, or worse yet, by the shame and embarrassment they feel about their weight. I see their confidence shattered.
Every day, I see how it isolates and prevents people from living their lives fully.
When a Hawaii Vacation Becomes a Burden of Fear
Not long ago a patient, Sally, told me about an amazing invitation she’d received to go to Hawaii. (Sally isn’t her real name, but to protect her identity, that’s what I’ll call her.)
A tropical paradise – sun, warmth, ocean, coral reefs, sea turtles floating gracefully by… sea turtles, can you imagine!
The sparkle in Sally’s eyes told me the idea was captivating. Knowing that she had the money and vacation time, I inquired about the details.
“How exiting!” I said. “When is the trip?”
“I can’t go,” Sally told me. “I’m not comfortable getting into a swimsuit.”
Problem-solver that I am, my first inclination was to suggest that she had as much right as anyone to wear a swimsuit and frolic in the warm ocean. I wanted to remind her that there are many other delights to partake of in a tropical paradise and that wearing a swimsuit is not required for any of them.
But I didn’t. I knew she wasn’t in a place to hear me.
Sally was in the grip of fear and embarrassment, all because of her struggle with weight.
Until we both recognized and acknowledged the weight-related shame, there would be no freedom.
If you are looking for freedom from weight-related shame, don’t miss my announcement at the end!
What was the last time you withdrew from life’s opportunities…
- Because of how you look?
- Because you felt you weren’t good enough?
- Or because you were embarrassed by the weight you struggle to lose?
It’s more common than you realize.
But the conversation around weight ignores important realities about obesity. Instead, it tends to shame the great many people who struggle with weight, and spread the outdated, simplistic thinking about what causes it.
Where Does Weight–Related Shame Come From?
There is a prevailing belief that there is a simple cause and a simple solution to weight issues.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
There are complex reasons as to why people gain and lose weight, and they are different for everyone.
So often people are told it is their fault. And they end up believing it. Being on the receiving end of overt blame and shame (including from medical professionals), they assume that they ARE to blame.
Then the sticky arms of shame reach out and take hold with a suffocating grip.
How do we fight the beast?
We name it, face it, and send it packing.
We blast it with knowledge and compassion and understanding.
It has been my mission to find the antidotes to weight and shame. It is more than calories and exercise. And it is more than just trying harder.
It starts with addressing the shame, embarrassment, fear, and lack of confidence that a lifetime of shaming and blaming have caused. Until we can address that, it is difficult to make progress.
Then we can look at the whole metabolic and lifestyle picture, and find the real solutions to weight loss for your unique body and lifestyle.
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But you’re probably wondering, what happened with Sally?
Finding Relief from Shame
“Are you feeling shame about your weight?” I asked.
“Yes,” Sally responded.
“Is there a way to feel compassion for how hard it is for you to feel comfortable with your body?” I asked.
“I’m not good at feeling compassion for myself,” she said.
“Could you try?” I asked.
“I could try.” Her shoulders softened as she made eye contact.
Maybe Hawaii wasn’t out of the question after all. In fact it wasn’t…
By the time the Hawaii trip came around, she was ready. She wasn’t perfect. She wasn’t where she wished she could be with her weight. But she wasn’t holding herself back out of fear, embarrassment, or shame.
She frolicked among the sea turtles, sipped Mai Tai’s on the beach, and enjoyed all those tropical paradise joys with people she loved.
This is a story I see time and time again.
So how about you? Are you ready to make the change?