Oh, the shame of weight regain. There is something excruciatingly frustrating about seeing the scale inch up and up. One day you are down two pounds and then a month later you have regained those two pounds and added another four or five. Not only is this cycle frustrating, it can cause you to feel ashamed and want to quit even trying to lose weight. Like many people, I know the shame of “weight regain.” I remember avoiding friends I hadn’t seen for a long time because I didn’t want them to see how much weight I had gained. I even had a client who made an excuse to skip her closest college friend’s wedding because she had put on 50 pounds in the years since she had last seen her friend. She was too embarrassed to show up to the wedding looking so different from how her friend remembered. To add to her frustration, she had been trying to diet for years without success. The shame of weight regain is real no matter if you put on the weight suddenly or slowly.
What’s the problem with shame?
You may wonder why shame isn’t a good thing when you need to lose weight. After all, for some people, feeling ashamed of a behavior can bring about change. My kids feel bad when they’ve hurt one of their siblings’ feelings and oftentimes they do change their behavior. At least for a day or two. But in weight regain, shame doesn’t seem to work as an incentive to lose weight. Instead, the more shame you experience over gaining weight, the more you feel hopeless, helpless, and stuck in a pattern you can’t seem to change. I totally get it. As I gained weight, I felt worse and worse about myself. As the years went by and I steadily gained more and more weight, my ability to move in the right direction diminished. There are a few reasons this can happen, including:
- Low self-esteem
- Frustration leading to inaction
- Forced acceptance of your new weight
- Fear of failure
It’s important to acknowledge the shame you feel, even though that acknowledgment can be emotionally painful. For my client who skipped the wedding, she realized her shame was holding her back from moving forward. Once she got to that point emotionally, things began to change. You too can move from shame to success with some hard work and deliberate choices.
1. Acknowledge that you do feel ashamed of your weight regain.
It’s a difficult but important first step. Write down what’s happened to make you gain weight, how that makes you feel, and then commit to making positive changes from this point forward.
2. Get some professional counseling if the emotions are so strong that they’re holding you back.
There are often deeply held feelings that affect your weight. If you’ve got issues from your past that you know are affecting how you feel about yourself, it might benefit you to get some professional counseling for a time.
3. Make a doable action plan and lay out the steps you need to take day by day.
Don’t declare you are going to lose 50 pounds in 2 weeks. That’s just setting yourself up for failure and more weight regain. Instead, create an action plan to lose weight in a way that is realistic and healthy.
4. Count all progress as positive.
It’s okay to lose weight slowly. Pat yourself on the back when a pound comes off and stays off, feel proud of yourself for exercising regularly, and let each bit of progress move you forward.
5. Watch out for shame rebound.
Just like pounds can come back on when you don’t want them to, so can shame. I had to fight continually against feeling ashamed of my weight regain even as I was trying to drop those pounds again. Be on the lookout for those feelings to resurface. But this time, you’ve got a plan to combat them and finally get to your goal.