Is it bad to want to lose weight?

Claire explores the complexities behind the desire for weight loss and offers questions for reflection as you pave a path forward.

Women looks at herself in the mirror while holding her arm.

...you may spend minutes in a year with your doctor, but you spend hours online...consuming health information from experts and non-experts on social.

Show Notes
Program note: Hey, glad you’re enjoying the podcast! In this episode, you might hear Claire talking about Nutritional Freedom and Foundations. Since we launched the podcast in 2020, we've undergone a makeover to improve the membership experience. For more, listen to our "And we're back! All the updates!" episode.

Claire Siegel: You're listening to the Flourish podcast. I'm your host, Claire Siegel, founder of Flourish. We're on a mission to help women get healthy for good. Join me each week for a new episode that'll help you sustain healthy habits and nourish your body so you can Flourish in life.

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Claire Siegel: Welcome back to the Flourish podcast. As mentioned last week, today's episode marks the first in a mini series of sorts that I will be doing on weight. Last week on my Instagram story, I explained this conflict that I'm observing in many of our incoming Flourish members. So they're experiencing on one hand this desire for weight loss, and then on the other hand, this guilt or shame for feeling that desire.

And I found myself a bit curious. Is this just a Flourish member thing or is this indicative of how people are feeling more broadly? So I took to my Instagram story, I put up a, a poll and asked, you know, Do you feel this tension? And 80% of respondents said yes. And so my original plan was to kick this series off with a deep dive on the science of diet failure, why diets don't produce the weight loss results that they promise from both a physiological and psychological perspective.

But based on what I heard on Instagram, I recognize that this is actually where we need to start. Is it okay to want to lose weight? Is it bad or wrong to want to lose weight? So again, what's kind of happening here? So for about 80% of you, there's this pattern. You recognize that you have a desire for weight loss, and then on top of that feeling of desire is a feeling about that feeling. Okay. And from what I've gathered, usually that secondary feeling is guilt or even shame. The the thought preceding those feelings of guilt or shame is something along the lines of I shouldn't want this. So for example, I was on a call with a brand new member last week and I asked her a, a standard question I ask, which is, what will success in Flourish and, you know, beyond look like for you?

And she said something along the lines of, you know, I want to eat more balanced meals. I wanna have a better relationship with food. And I know I shouldn't say this, but I also wanna be a smaller size. So quite literally the feeling or the thought, subconsciously, and in this case consciously was, I shouldn't want this, but I do.

 From what I've gathered, it appears that this feeling of shame about the desire for weight loss typically comes from two sources. So the first is one's personal history or their repeated past attempts at weight loss. And so the thought here is something like, Am I really trying this again? I should just give up. Again, I shouldn't want this. 

And the second and arguably louder source of that shame, just based on the conversations I'm having, is this shift that we've seen in the cultural conversation around weight, body size, all of that. What I've, heard from members is, I know we're supposed to be all about body positivity and acceptance now, but I just don't feel comfortable at this weight.

And sometimes it can take us a minute to, to even get there, to kind of build, of course, that rapport and trust to even be open about that conflict and that desire. Now I do just wanna be really clear here that an increase in body positivity and body acceptance and an increase in representation in the media is really important and necessary.

And I've spoken to so many people who feel so much better. And are so much healthier mentally, physically, emotionally, as a result of these shifts. And I also recognize that you can applaud these changes from kind of like a big picture societal viewpoint, and still on individual level feel physically, mentally, emotionally displeased with your.

And if that's the case for you, body acceptance may feel like this new societal expectation or just like another boxed you can't check. And then you've got the pursuit of weight loss, which has only ever failed you and is also now this like four letter word. So then this desire for weight loss, which you may not even fully admit to yourself, it leaves you feeling ashamed and as a result stuck.

So one of my favorite Brené Brown quote says, "If you put shame in a Petri dish and cover it with judgment, silence and secrecy, you've created the perfect environment for shame to grow until it makes its way into every corner and crevice of your life. If on the other hand, you put shame in a Petri dish and dows it with empathy, shame loses its power and begins to wither. Empathy creates a hostile environment for shame, an environment it can't survive in because shame needs you to believe you're alone and it's just you." 

And so that's what I hope to provide you with. in this episode and in this series is some empathy and connection and context. I hope to through this like one way conversation, very weird, I hope to help you untangle some of your complicated feelings about the pursuit of weight loss, and also arm you with the education that you need to move forward in a direction that ultimately aligns with your values. 

Okay, now we need to talk a little bit about social media. I'm just gonna take a bit of a turn here for a second, because valid or not, especially on social media, weight, physical appearance and health have become totally tangled up, and it's impossible to have a nuanced conversation about shifting perceptions of of weight or weight loss without touching on appearance and health.

Nowhere else do we see this kind of shift playing out more than on social media. As I was thinking about this episode, I, I sort of recognized, perhaps it's obvious, but I'd never thought about it in this way exactly. That social media has arguably the most powerful impact today on what's socially acceptable versus what isn't across weight, appearance, and even health.

I mean, you may spend minutes in a year with your doctor, but you spend hours online, maybe even hours a day online consuming health information from experts and non-experts on social. So again, we have to talk about social media and we have to talk about what's happening around this concept of weight, appearance and health on social media, and I can't be the only one who's witnessed the online nutrition community kind of divide itself into three camps. So there's diet nutrition, anti- diet nutrition, and functional nutrition, which is kind of the newer, a newer come here. Right? 

So diet nutrition is mostly focused on weight and appearance. There's anti- diet nutrition, which is mostly focused on relationship with food and relationship with your body. And then there's functional nutrition, which is mostly focused on health. And it seems that the most popular and vocal figures on social are those who pick a camp and go all in on the most absolute version of their camp's principles, Right?

So from the diet nutrition camp, you may hear something like, "Weight loss is just calories in, calories out. Being overweight is a choice." And then you may hear something from the anti- diet camp, like "All you need to do is listen to your body, and if you wanna lose weight, you're fat phobic." And then another voice in the room, this functional nutrition voice is saying something like, "Sugar and canola oil are evil and destroying your health."

And these rigid, dichotomous, very black and white stances, honestly, they kill it on social media. They do. And as someone who is on social media who has a social media presence, oh my gosh, it can be so challenging to witness that and to believe in nuance and to believe in this gray area. But alas, here we are, you know, you're, if, if you're listening to this podcast, you're my people, right?

And part of the reason that these very like sort of dichotomous binary black and white views do so well on social media is that our brains love them. Our brains love this clarity and certainty that black and white rules provide. But again, if you're here, chances are you find yourself somewhere in the gray.

If you're here, I'm willing to bet that you care about your health, your relationship with food, your relationship with your body, and, the topic of today's episode, your weight. And you've never needed this from me or from anyone else for that matter. But let's start with a permission slip to care about and want what you truly care about and want.

So in other words, To answer this question proposed by the title of this episode, It's okay if you wanna lose weight. What a relief, right? I want you to take a second to reflect on how it feels to hear that without the weight of "I shouldn't want this,". What are you left with? I hope you have some self-compassion.

Compassion for the version of you who has felt conflicted or stuck. Compassion for the part of you who wants to feel comfortable or confident, or even just neutral towards the body that you're in today. I hope that you feel some curiosity. You're wondering what's within and underneath your desire to lose weight.

What are the reasons you want to change your body? Do you actually like those reasons? If not, are you open to releasing them? And if you do like those reasons, how might you avoid repeating what hasn't worked for you in the past? How might you hold this desire for change while also learning to enjoy being in the body that you're in right now? 

So to help you meet that curiosity with some clarity, here's some questions that we ask our members when we're working on weight and body image. Question number one, what has your weight history been from, you know, your upbringing, high school, college, post college? If you've had a baby, then you know, before you got pregnant, during pregnancy, postpartum. Like what has your history been through time?

And what were the circumstances surrounding any changes in weight, whether that is related to your diet, history, to, a shift in like relationships or life circumstances. Maybe you've experienced weight change secondary to mental or physical health conditions. We have an exercise that we have our members do where they like literally plot their weight history over time.

So that's important. To know where you've been. Question number two, When have you felt most physically comfortable in your body? At what weight or size. Now, when have you felt most mentally comfortable in your body? When have you had, in other words, the most kind or at least neutral thoughts and feelings about your body?

Maybe you've never been at that place, and that's okay. It's just something to note and to notice with, again, compassion and curiosity. But how have those kind of changes in your physical and mental body comfort correlated with your weight history and those surrounding circumstances? 

Question number three, if you have a goal weight, have you ever been at this weight before?

How was your body image at that time? How was your physical health? How was your mental health? What about your relationships and overall quality of life? How have things changed since then? 

Question number four, is there a weight that your body seems to gravitate to? And how do you physically and mentally feel when you are at that weight?

We're gonna do an episode next week on Set Point Weight Theory, what it is, what it isn't. Some of the questions it leaves unanswered. So if this is a topic that you're interested in, just be sure to come back next week. 

Okay, Now we're on question number five. How enmeshed are your food choices and your weight?

So if you see the scale go up or down, does that impact what you eat, how much you eat, and your thoughts and feelings about eating? And if it does, in what way? 

Question six, how important to you is the speed of weight loss? How important is weight loss maintenance to you? How important is it for you to maintain the weight that you're currently.

Last question, or I guess set of questions. 

What are you willing to do to lose weight? What are you not willing to do to lose weight and have these things changed over time? So in a group coaching session last week, a member and I were talking about the desire for weight loss, and she asked me something along the lines of, "Okay, so I wanna lose weight. And I also realize and recognize that there are factors related to my weight that are out of my control. Whether that's, you know, genetics, environmental factors, things like that. Am I just supposed to have this unmet desire forever?" 

And I asked her, "Are there areas of your life where you desire something that you don't currently have, and you don't have full control over if or when you get there?" And so I shared a metaphor with her that I thought you might benefit from. We had a really interesting conversation around it. So I, I hope you benefit from it. And then, you know, maybe you can also relate. So kind of like the member desires, weight loss, something that's not totally in her control, one day I hope to have more money than I have today. And my relationship with this desire can feel complex and it's changed over time. There have definitely been times when this desire wasn't what I would call healthy. When the desire itself was actually rooted in a subconscious and also frankly, incorrect belief that more money equals more success equals worth and worthiness.

There have been times that I've thought life would just be perfect if I had more money, when in reality I can think of a few people at least, who have more money than me and aren't necessarily any happier than I am. There have been times that I've judged myself for this desire, labeling myself as greedy or evil despite the opposing evidence that I have and my self knowledge.

There have been times when I'm so focused on this future outcome and my desire for it, that I don't even enjoy the present moment, which is all we ever have, right? So developing a healthy relationship with this desire has involved a lot of internal work, and some of that is ever ongoing. And I've had to figure out if this desire is right or wrong for me.

Because just like with weight, there are a lot of societal "shoulds" about money, whether we're talking about money and success or women and money. So in my internal work, I've had to quiet all of that external noise and really look at this desire and the associated efforts through my own lens and run it through the filter of my values, just like I'm asking you to do for the desire for weight loss.

I'm honest with myself about this very personal future desire and I make appropriate and intentional steps towards it, and I also make sure that I hold it at a healthy distance from my present day life. 

Hopefully you're picking up what I'm putting down. So I sat for a while trying to figure out how to wrap this episode up in this like neat and tidy bow and leave you with a few next steps because you know how I like to do that on these episodes.

But this is a topic that is incredibly individualized and complex. So it's really challenging to hand off a one size fits all recommendation, right? Your weight is an outcome of so many factors. We're talking about developmental determinants, genetics, gender, age, physical activity, diet, environmental, social factors, and then on top of all of that there's your weight, but then there's your weight and diet history, plus your relationship to your weight and to your diet history, all the like thoughts and feelings surrounding all of that. 

So what I'll leave you with is this very simple encouragement to explore the topic of your weight. The thing itself, your history with it, and all of those surrounding thoughts, feelings, and desires with curiosity, compassion, and honesty with yourself.

It is okay that you want to lose weight, to have the desire for weight loss and then lather it in shame, and "I shouldn't," is probably not working for you. So it is okay to desire weight loss. The next step then is to interrogate that desire. To run it through the filter of your core values, to explore the many, many questions I've shared in this podcast, and then to decide what one step forward looks like.

And of course, if you want guidance, support, education or accountability along this journey of exploring that desire and figuring out what to do about it, you know where to go. Flourish is here for you. 

All right. I cannot wait to hear your feedback on this episode. I can't wait to hear what came up for you as you listened to it and explored the, I don't know, I probably gave you 30 questions in this podcast to kind of explore the desire for weight loss, send me a message on Instagram, send me a DM and let me know what came up for you, what you thought your feedback. And I will see you next week on the Flourish Podcast. Bye y'all.

Claire Siegel:

Thank you so much for joining me for today's episode of the Flourish podcast. If you enjoyed it, please take a second to leave us a five-star review or better yet, share it with a friend. And if you're ready to start your own journey to get healthy for good with accountability from expert coaches and the support of an incredible community, head to the show notes to get started on your Flourish journey.

I'll see you in the next episode.

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Claire Siegel
Co-founder, CEO
Claire Siegel is the founder and CEO of Flourish. Claire has made it her life’s mission to help women create a sustainable approach to their physical and mental well-being.

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